I must confess my admiration for all those who are analysing IPL in great depth, giving its vast followers an insight into tactics used and even advising captains what stratagem to put in place so that they can win.
My respect for present and former players has grown manifold as they are able to explain so lucidly all the technical brilliance involved in trying to hit every ball for a six, if not a boundary. Their imagination needs to be commended, especially when they pinpoint the mistakes a bowler is making — which is most of the time — while being treated by the batsman like an errant schoolboy who has forgotten his books at home.
I am no moron and understand why the thousands who turn up at the ground or the lakhs who remain glued to their TV sets are enjoying each moment of the fare dished out to them. The harder the ball is hit and the longer it traverses in the air brings out the child in us, and what a joy it must be to catch the ball in the stands after it has eluded the best of fielders on the ground. Imagine a day when spectators will be rewarded in lakhs for having caught a batsman in the stands.
This heady cocktail of cheerleaders “dressed” to kill, film stars sitting and watching the match in the same stadium and that too with “us” while the best players in the world are sending the ball flying like a missile in all directions must be moments to cherish.
Not to forget the heady climax, when the race between runs needed to win and the balls remaining becomes so narrow that the tension it creates is almost unbearable.
Yet there are many, like me, who find this whole exhibition of “brilliance” too one-sided and monotonous to enjoy. Each match appears a repetition of the previous one and when almost every ball is hit out of the ground, it loses its novelty. It may be good in small doses but for more than a month watching replay of a replay may not be every ones idea of entertainment.
Any sport to be enjoyed has to pit two sets of skills against each other and create conditions and ground rules which do not favour one against the other. Here the batsman is the emperor and the bowler a pauper. So loaded is the game in the former’s favour that we might as well replace bowlers with a machine, which can toss the ball for the batsman to whack it as he pleases. There are aberrations, when by default a bowler takes a hat-trick and reduces the match to a one-sided contest. But in doing so he becomes a party-pooper, not just for the spectators but also for those who have invested millions in this industry.
The IPL reminds me of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “the Emperor’s clothes” where two conmen trick the emperor and his subjects into believing that the dress which they have made for him will not be visible to those who are either not fit for their jobs or are fools. The conmen fleece the king, disrobe him and then pretend they have dressed him in gold and silk. Everyone, including the king, praises the dress, afraid that if they say they can’t see the dress, they will be dubbed fools.
In the story it is a child who speaks the truth. Here, at the risk of being called a dunce, I echo what the child said: “The emperor is not wearing anything at all.”