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‘IPL is an attempt to glamourise cricket into mass entertainment’

Stilt  walkers  glide  around  the  ground  like  colossal  butterflies  as  enormous    cables  connect  the stadium’s  roof   to  the  playing  square.

Published: 01st December 2021 06:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st December 2021 01:22 PM   |  A+A-

Ayaz Memon

Ayaz Memon

By Express News Service

April 18, 2008

I have never seen anything like this. The M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru is packed to the rafters  to  witness the inaugural match of a tournament  previously  restricted to the fantasies of cricket’s legions of  followers. The  decade-long flirtations between India’s favourite sport and Bollywood  have been consummated. The most excited fan  in  the  arena is Shah  Rukh  Khan, co-owner of  the  Kolkata  Knight  Riders  (KKR), who are taking  on  the  Royal  Challengers  Bangalore  (RCB),  the  team  belonging    to  India’s  foremost  liquor  baron,  Vijay  Mallya.  

A  mesmerising  medley  of   India’s  finest  has  converged  to  kick-start  what  seems  to  be  a  sporting revolution, complete with the requisite rapture and razzmatazz. The Indian Premier League, a franchise-based T20 tournament, has created a dizzy of   anticipation for months, and the time has finally arrived to unleash cricket’s   latest creature.

A NOVEL SPECTACLE

Stilt  walkers  glide  around  the  ground  like  colossal  butterflies  as  enormous    cables  connect  the stadium’s  roof   to  the  playing  square.  I am tempted to burst the giant bubble in the centre of the field filling my television screen,   but my whim gives way to wonder at the marvellous feats of the acrobats on display. BCCI President Sharad Pawar calls it a ‘historic day’, while his deputy and the mastermind behind the magic, Lalit Modi (also the IPL chairman), declares the tournament open. The  Chinnaswamy  erupts  as  the  eight captains of  the eight IPL teams are paraded, before pledging their allegiance  to MCC’s Spirit of  Cricket declaration.

The  ICC  World  T20  last  year  gave  us  an  idea  of   what  to  expect  from   the best in the game slugging it out for a few weeks in the shortest format   of  cricket, but the IPL is not just an aggregation of  leading cricketers, it is   an attempt to glamourise cricket into mass entertainment on a scale never  attempted before.

I am staring at the screen with awe, incredulous at the intricacy on show.  The  two  skippers  for  the  first  match,  Rahul  Dravid  and  Sourav  Ganguly,   march out to the glare of  a spotlight, with the rest of  the setting enveloped   in  darkness.  India’s  pair  of   veterans  has  been  part  of   several  spectacular    partnerships,  but  their  walk  to  the  pitch  for  the  toss  is  a  sight  unlike  any    other. Amidst the entrancing environment, Dravid calls correctly and RCB opt to bowl first.

THE BRENDON BLITZKRIEG

Ganguly is accompanied by the big-hitting Brendon McCullum as the Knight Riders get their innings underway. In their trailblazing colours of  red   and  yellow,  the  home  team  start  stronger,  with  Praveen  Kumar  troubling  McCullum in the very first over. At the other end, however, it is a different   story,  with  Zaheer  Khan  struggling  to  contain  the  New  Zealander,  as    McCullum lets loose. Two fours are followed by the first six in IPL history, a streaky top-edge that squirts over third man and clears the fence. With his trademark baseball bat-swing, McCullum is going all guns blazing, as KKR   bring up 50 runs inside the first four overs.

A spate of  boundaries from McCullum — who is stroking the ball with  reckless  ease — is  piling  on  the  misery  for  a  clueless  RCB  attack,  with    the  fielders  doing  little  to  help  the  bowlers’  morale  through  a  series  of     misfields. Amidst the swashbuckling pulls and slaps off  McCullum’s   blade, there is the occasional caress from Ganguly, reminding viewers that   classical grace is not extinct in this new age of  muscle play. But Dada’s stay   is shortlived, his edge off  Zaheer finds the bucket-esque hands of  Jacques   Kallis,  and  RCB  have  a  much-needed  first  breakthrough.  The departure   of his opening partner does little to arrest McCullum’s momentum, who  is now joined by Ricky Ponting, and continues to tee off  in all directions,   tearing into the slow left-armers of  Sunil Joshi. At the end of  10 overs, KKR   are placed comfortably at 87 for one.

(Excerpted with permission from  Indian Innings:  The Journey of Indian Cricket from 1947 by Ayaz Memon, published by Westland Sport)



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