MUMBAI: If you want to see the new India, with all its lofty aspirations and flightiness, come and watch the Indian Premier League in Mumbai. It is young, restless and has a considerable disposable income at hand—after all the least this three-and-some-hour IPL experience costs at the Wankhede stadium is Rs 750.
Cricket’s new league of fans line up at American fast food stalls, drink fizzy drinks, wear the blue-and-gold jerseys of the Mumbai Indians, sport blue Afro wigs and are usually spotted taking selfies outside the stadium, lips puckered up for that universally favourite duck face. They are irreverent, excitable and easily seduced by the glamour and promise of some quick-fix entertainment.
As much as the IPL has taken cricket away from its subtle, calm soul; it has taken its traditional working class base away from the game.
Wankhede’s stands, which were tellingly empty only over a month ago when Karnataka and Tamil Nadu faced-off in the Ranji Trophy final-- the title clash of India’s most important domestic tournament, roared and jumped with excitement every time a batsman so much as got bat to ball. The IPL is a constant cascade of boundaries and noise, orchestrated by DJ’s, cheerleaders and the bouts of fireworks that accompany an important event of the home team.
Kings XI Punjab started off in that hectic tone against Mumbai Indians on Sunday evening. It was the first day of action this IPL in Mumbai, and the Punjab players seemed intent on putting up a good show. Former India firebrand Virender Sehwag celebrated his return to the Wankhede with a flourish of shots, knocking 36 in 19 balls, with the help of six boundaries and one six, to launch an early attack on the hosts. The Mumbai fans still cheered on wildly.
Well, haven’t they told you already, the unique selling point of the IPL is that, as far as India is concerned, there are no losers. They are all Indian teams, with a majority of Indian players, and the tournament just hasn’t been around long enough to inspire fierce regional, or franchise, loyalties. Not in the famously cosmopolitan setting of Mumbai anyway.
Harbhajan Singh eliminated the threat of Sehwag in his first over itself, forcing his former India teammate to hole out at long-on, where the huge figure of Keiron Pollard comfortably pocketed the catch. Even though Sehwag was back in the pavilion, rather the dug-out, the rush was runs rarely slowed down. Nor did perpetual buzz in the stadium.