He is credited with importing judo to India but Rabindranath Tagore’s name had never been associated with sport in any way, barring a local car rally called Kabiguru Rally. Observed elaborately and almost religiously all over Bengal on both sides of the border, neither had his birth anniversary become an issue in any arena of sports.
Thanks to the IPL, which has brought together people of many hues from several trades including cricket, the poet extraordinaire too on Thursday got ‘involved’ with this extraordinary show. They served Rabindra Sangeet and dance that goes with it before the match at Eden Gardens to mark Tagore’s 148th birthday.
In between the blaring techno numbers that welcome fans at all IPL venues, Indrani Sen sang the Bengali and Hindi versions of Boro asha kore eshechigo kache deke lao, the national anthem, Mamata Shankar’s troupe performed and Shah Rukh Khan recited a few lines from Where the mind is without fear before garlanding Tagore’s portrait. A sharp spell of rain kept them company.
It was largely a case of moral policing than an act of reverence. Planned was a jig featuring Shah Rukh whose presence has been the most important highlight of IPL matches at this distinguished venue. Rabindra Sangeet was thrust upon the organisers by state sports minister Subhas Chakraborty, a supporter of ICL – the antibody of IPL.
The minister has often spoken in favour of the league not recognised by the BCCI and also said that if needed, ICL matches can be played at Salt Lake Stadium while questioning the authority of Cricket Association Bengal in conducting matches at Eden. Remembering Tagore before a T20 match in that sense is a unique fallout of this feud.
The organisers, already under pressure from the state government to pay an additional tax for adding entertainment elements to the show, have clearly chosen the safe option of quickly accepting this demand instead letting things get more complicated. Whether they found Rabindra Sangeet incongruous while waiting for the action is up to the spectators.
Though inadvertently in this case, the IPL added another 'feather' to its cap. The number of feathers is growing daily and diversely. Slap, ban, probe, power failure, cheerleaders, bad pitch, Warne on Ganguly, the sacking of a team CEO and now Tagore in a milieu of known and unknown cricketers, business tycoons and film stars - it’s still brewing. How heady the cocktail is will be clear when it's complete.