There seems to be some folks who are gobsmacked by the kind of money that’s running between the wickets after the announcement of two new teams joining the Indian Premier League (IPL) menagerie. To make their discomfort more cardio-vascularly felt, the bit about the sale of the latest entrants, Pune and Kochi, bringing the IPL consortium more moolah than the sale of the previous eight, has raised many bushy eyebrows who don’t like sports and money to mix in the bathtub with such a splash. But the
Rs 3,235 crore that’s entered the IPL coffers through the auction of a Kochi and Pune teams show that money follows the most democratic principle: popular interest, something that aficionados can knock at their own peril.
Look at Bollywood, for instance. After a flirtation with ‘parallel cinema’ in the 70s-80s that saw little in terms of a leap in production qualities despite the scripts offering something more nuanced, Hindi movies became synonymous with over-the-top frilly-silly films for the lowest common denominator. What was required was good cinema — good scripts with good production quality — to enter the mainstream via traditional Bollywood marketing and visibility. Only now are we seeing ‘intelligent’, nuanced, high quality and popular Hindi films.
What we see in IPL and its ability to generate interest and cash — two pillars of the survival of any sustainable venture — is a similar hegemony of the lowest common denominator-style product. With the Colosseum of the IPL playing out its gladiatorial contests to the rabble, what we will see in the years to come is the mainstreamising of ‘quality’ sports like Test cricket that will borrow the strengths of this crores-aflutter circus while retaining its own subtle ‘value-added’ virtues.