Fame is proof that the people are gullible. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The most popular soap opera is heading towards its climax but something vital seems to be missing. The crowds are roaring, even if sometimes all they watch is the rain falling; the TV audience, we are told is multiplying and the media carpet-bombing is continuing unabated.
But the star of stars, the man who gave the Indians their new national anthem --- Chak de India --- has gone missing.
In many ways, the face of the IPL so far --- where the best of cricketers are discovering new ways of slamming the ball out of sight --- has been the volcanic yet child-like Shah Rukh Khan, orchestrating the crowd to a frenzy in support of his team. He had drawn people to the stadium and near their TV sets in thousands as he went on with his “inspirational” gestures, but alas, his team flopped.
The success of the IPL so far, which is trying to merge the real with reel, has, perhaps, been this human drama, where the script went awry and King Khan decided to move out of sight.
The first blow came from his team, which, unlike the Chak de girls, could not match his wavelength. Then came the unkindest cut of all --- he was told to leave the dressing room as his presence was violating the ICC's code of conduct.
Imagine the scene. Shah Rukh, who can command thousands at the Eden Gardens by just raising his finger and can make millions across the world go crazy with his looks, is ordered by a nondescript security officer to leave the dressing room.
The understandably-hurt film star, even if he had not been the owner of the team, had every reason to feel shocked and his angry reaction that “I am not corrupt” must have touched even the heart of his detractors. Had this been done to an Ambani or a Mallya, no one would have felt bad. But to make Shah Rukh feel like a commoner and an accused must have shaken him badly.
Why did this happen?
To understand this, you have to understand the philosophy behind the ICC's Anti-corruption Unit, which was formed immediately after the match-fixing scandal broke and its job is to insulate the dressing room from any outside influence. You also have to realise that many in the ICC and even most of those who have followed the trail of the bookie-player nexus feel that the IPL, where a player is not playing for the country, could be more vulnerable to the forces who would want to manipulate the result of a match.
“There is too much money at stake --- of the franchisees and even of the players --- so there is a greater need to put rules and regulations in place here,” feels the ACU. Though they are not supervising the event, for them the presence of too many people --- team owners, company officials and even that of Lalit Modi --- was undesirable. Shah Rukh, who put in his heart, energy and soul into his team, and all other franchisees should have been briefed by the IPL before the event began, so that a way could have been found to accommodate those who wished to be part of the team dressing room.
It is obvious that Shah Rukh felt so bad that he has decided not to be present at the ground when his team is playing. In a lengthy but touching SMS to his team, he has made his hurt clear and told them he would come to the dressing room only once he is clear in his mind whether these rules are right or not. By not turning this into a confrontation between him and the organisers, he has shown his mature face and if the IPL has to avoid major scandals in future, it is men like him who can lead the way and be part of a decision-making which would help in creating a proper dressing room code beneficial to all.
Let us not fool ourselves and agree that the IPL is nothing but an exercise to make money for everyone concerned with the event --- players, owners and the BCCI. In this crass commercial activity, rules and regulations have to be strictly adhered to so that the IPL does not become a victim of its own greed.