By Tim Hancox
The Indian Premier League (IPL) has arrived with some true Bollywood colour, glamour and surprise. The twenty20 tournament offers fast-paced cricket played everyday, and supporters haven’t even had a chance to catch their breath yet. England’s own mob of traditionalists–who scoff at limited-overs cricket at the best of times– must be in complete disbelief and many will be turning in their graves at the prospect of such a revolution in the game. The English cricketers themselves have not been allowed to take part due to some clashes with their domestic calendar which has left Kevin Pietersen and his team mates at the home of cricket gnashing their teeth, sulking and mostly winging to the press about the whole affair. The English invented the game, but now they seem to have missed the boat for the most exciting new expansion of the sport.
IPL has been likened to Kerry Packer’s World Series in the 1970s, which introduced coloured clothing, day/night games, the use of a white ball rather than the signature red one, and the signing of some of the world’s best players. Packer’s invention was dubbed ‘pyjama cricket’ and initially it was dismissed before it revolutionised the game into its modern ODI form. Now with the best players in the world on display for a month and a half, the IPL has attracted similar attention. The notion Packer endorsed that cricketers will play for money rather than national pride is once again up for debate. Well, not really debate, per sè, because the cheque book speaks rather loudly for itself. Players have carefully called the whole project ‘exciting’ and not said much else. I’m sure their bank managers will all agree that next month is going to be very exciting.
Another reason for all the excitement is the introduction of the cheerleaders of the Bangalore Royal Challengers (BRC). These flexible and lightly-clad beauties have been loaned from American football outfit, the Washington Redskins, and have caused uproar in conservative India. The girls claim to have blended traditional all-American cheerleading moves with Bollywood hip-hop steps. Hats off then, for that initiative, to liquor baron Vijay Mallya who owns the team. He can put it on his mantelpiece along with Kingfisher beer, a Scottish whiskey distillery and India’s first Formula One racing team.
Bollywood is also in on the act with a few movie stars buying some of the teams during the franchise auction. One in particular is Shahrukh Khan, owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders, whose gold pads would make The Hoff, TV’s original Knight Rider, blush. Our own Jacques Kallis who plays for the BRC is taking home $900 000 for six weeks work. If you think that is a lot Mahendra Singh Dhoni walks away with $1.5 million and a swagger in his step.
The amount of money involved in the IPL is unprecedented in cricket. The television rights alone have been sold for $1.026 billion for the next ten years’ coverage!
Cheers to that!