For someone who knows more about cricket than I want to or need to, it seems a bit out of character that I’m looking forward to the game’s giant annual tamasha. I believe that the IPL is due to start one day soon, or so I gather from ads on TV.
I don’t watch IPL because Farah Khan features in the ads or there will be some usually pathetic attempt at what passes for dancing by “cheer leaders” or even that film stars that I can rarely recognise will be behaving in some vulgar manner whenever TV cameras come near them. Unlike most Indians, I am ashamed to say, my life does not revolve around cricket and Bollywood.
My reasons for liking the Indian Premier League are simple: I can understand it. For years I have tried to grapple with the intricacies of cricket, its subtle use of philosophy and some strange machinations of your fingers which send aficionados into a spin. They all go over my head. In my extreme youth I peered at our black and white EC TV with a Reader’s Digest encyclopaedia on my lap, trying to match the fielding positions on screen with those on the page.
The TV was very small and those little men standing on a grey field all looked the same to me but I soldiered on. (I confess I did not know Virat Kohli was a cricketer when I saw him in the Fast Track ads. I saw his picture in a newspaper later and connected the dots. I didn’t know that the girl was Genelia, the actress either. Now I do know that she’s married to Riteish Deshmukh... hey, her late father-in-law was a former chief minister, not my fault!) I cannot make the requisite jokes about silly mid on and off because I never really got the point and third man remains a Graham Greene novel to me... oh Lord, forgive me.
The only result of all that childhood cricket-watching was that my knowledge of Hindi numbers became superlative. My Hindi teacher who tore her hair out when she read my essays was singularly impressed that I knew the difference between 98 and 99 and that I did not mistake 75 for 45 like my other class mates for most of whom watching cricket meant lusting after Imran Khan who was top horse in those days.
Subsequently, all my reading of Neville Cardus and CLR James led me to admire them as writers, so also some other home-grown cricket writers. But the cricket continued to elude me. Until IPL! The cricket is so basic that I even can do what I love doing best — show off! Aah, that shot is just agricultural I say knowingly as some hefty yokel hoists the ball into the far distance, with little thought for technique, subtlety or philosophy.
IPL, of course, best resembles the Indian street corner game of gilli danda, which was always appealing. You hit in whatever way you could and had a lot of fun and no one preached on about how cricket was life and life was India and who invented cricket and Oliver Goldsmith and an oak tree in a village green.
Meanwhile, it is time for harrumphing old purists to splutter and squeak their way through TV studios talking about how IPL has destroyed all old values, for various superior not-brown-or-black journalists working for newspapers and websites not based in the subcontinent to bemoan this Asian takeover tamasha of what was once a solid English preserve... blah blah blah.
Closer to home, all the bhabhis, starlings, hangers-on will be on display in botoxed splendour while India’s top industrialists will behave like hooligans during a street festival. Those who know more than the BCCI (1.2 billion Indians) will decide which player should make it to the main draw and so on. What’s not to love? (I know: the studio chats between matches!) And then on May 5, Roger Federer takes to the courts again. O come on, I’d have watched a month of cricket by then!
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona
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