Vijay Mallya is not a subtle man. But neither is Twenty20 cricket. So for us, subtle sort of people, should we be surprised that Mr Mallya is, in his colourful style upset with Rahul Dravid, the captain of his Bangalore Indian Premier League team? Uh-uh, definitely not. For those finding his ‘over-the-top’ reaction to a string of defeats unsettling and unbehoving of someone who owns a cricket team — as opposed to a show wrestling team — realise this: Twenty20 cricket, with its pom-pom girls, dug-out benches, on-field TV interviews and celebrity participations, is a far cry from things like gents in white flannels and the clubhouse view from Lord’s. Twenty20 is to cricket what gladiatorial bouts in ancient Rome is to spectator sports.
Indian sports has, in a way, entered the zone usually reserved for ‘loud’ sports like American basketball and premier league football. (Remember Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson throwing a shoe at an under-performing David Beckham that kept the tabloids sated for weeks in Britain?) The sacking of the IPL Bangalore team’s CEO was a gesture reminiscent of the behaviour of Italian football club fat cats — minus the mafia.
Not to be left too far behind, but with a different signature tune of his own, the owner of the Kolkata IPL team, a particular Shah Rukh Khan, played a clever defence counsel for the unhappy-go-lucky Dravid without mentioning any other names. Twenty20 now has its off-the-scene entertainment. Enjoy it, because it’s one big circus.