MUMBAI INDIANS: THE GAME CHANGERS

If there is something called twenty20 cricket, then this is it! If there is something called a cricket team, then this is it! If there is something called spirit, then this is it! and, if there is someone who can be called champions, then MUMBAI INDIANS it is……..!

Wow! What a game of cricket. It is no more that game where precise movement of the feet qualified by a calculated swing of the bat at the right moment takes away a well swung ball pitched at the right spot by the bowler. It is no more that game, where you wait for a loose delivery to happen. It is that game where nothing less than the spirit of the game and the situation that controls you. Cricket has evolved, evolved, evolved and evolved to become what Mumbai Indians played against the Rajasthan Royals.

The batting performance from the Rajasthan Royals was nothing short of a classy innings. Sanju V Samson and Karun Nair took the game away from the Mumbai Indians just like the snap of the fingers. Copy book shorts from Sanju had no trouble to face even from the top class deliveries of quality spinners like Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha. Karun Nair, on the other hand, was blazing hot with whatever he felt like doing in the crease. This partnership meant that most of the viewers other than RR and MI fans switched off their television as their was little point in believing that this mammoth total would be chased down by the unstable MI lineup.

But, what was unbelievable has happened now. Mi has chased down the total in just 87 balls! The intent from the MI was just evident from the very first ball that Lendl Simmons smashed for a boundary. Just as Mumbai were cutting loose and had scored over 60 within five years, they had lost three wickets. Just after that Rohit fell as well. So, it was happening- Mumbai was going for the kill and as usual they were loosing wickets at the right interval. From here on what happened is something that happen only in dreams.

Ambati Rayudu and Corey Anderson were smashing six after six, with a few boundaries to form the icing. They were smashing the cricket balls just like hitting away tennis balls. They just made the unbelievable happen! When Rayudu was run out in the 86th ball, it was thought that the bewildering effort has gone in vain. Even when the screen showed that a boundary in the next ball would win Mumbai the match, it was doubted whether Tare can score a first ball boundary under this pressure situation. But, even a Faulkner delivery was smashed into the stance and Mumbai sealed their win.

All those who have turned their heads against IPL after the incidents last year, see what is cricket. A few rotten apples, cannot rot the whole pack, if it is picked out at the right moment. Well, this is cricket. With Sachin, Rhodes, Kumble, Pollock, John Wright and all their players among the ranks, Mumbai has done what they are capable and what they have so far done only on papers. Thank you Mumbai Indians for the treat. You deserve the trophy again!

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Welcome to the theatre. Now Showing: the Indian Premier League

The recent spat between Kieron Pollard and Mitchell Starc is just a tick in an assembly line of ‘incidents’ that have occurred over the several editions of IPL.

Indian Premier League: Never short of drama.

When Sunil Gavaskar was appointed as the interim BCCI Chief a few days before the annual Indian cricket carnival event took off, he was adamant that this year’s IPL should be remembered only for the cricket and nothing else. He was, of course, referring to the previous edition’s fixing scandal, that brought about much shame and disrepute to the Indian cricket in general. But alas Mr.Gavaskar, this is the Indian Premier League, which thrives on controversy and public scrutiny.

The IPL, now in its 7th successful edition, has never been shy of a little drama. The IPL has always been viewed as “cricketainment”, an enticing combination of cricket and entertainment. With all the fancy team jerseys that make players look like walking bill boards, over-enthusiastic cheerleaders and high profile after match parties, cricket has never been the sole factor in the success of the IPL.

The pre-match show generally starts an hour before the scheduled start of play, but the actual cricket content and analysis, in bits and pieces, lasts about a third of the running time. Most of it is focussed on the in-studio panellists going gaga over the special guests who turn up to promote their respective trades (read, actors and movies, mostly), a drummer who goes “ba-dum-tuss” everytime Navjot Sidhu enlightens the public with one of his annoying yet trademark ‘shayaris’ and the acrobatic cheergirls shaking a leg to hit Bollywood numbers.

While the glitz and glamour of the IPL have always been there for all the editions, the transgressions in discipline and deteriorating standards in on-field composure also seem to have never abandoned it. Way back in 2008, Harbhajan Singh caused an uproar when he slapped his opponent and India team-mate Sreesanth. He was subsequently banned for the rest of the tournament, but the Mumbai Indians had to deal with a massive PR burnout. Last year, Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir, both Delhi and India team-mates got into an ugly spat which was later on justified by Gambhir in his newspaper column, calling it “a tense moment between two passionate individuals”. There is also the incident where the normally zen-like Rahul Dravid took a jibe at Mitchell Johnson after being sledged and thrashing him for a boundary the very next ball. The list of such incidents just keeps on growing as the years go by.

So what makes the competition among the players so fierce? It is after all, franchise based cricket, where the honour of a nation is not at stake. There are a few explanations, though.

A T20 game might be nerve wracking for the fans but it is a high pressure affair for the players, where the dynamics of a game can change in an over. The fact that one missed stumping or dropped catch or even a mis-field can cost the game for a team makes it a highly volatile environment. It sometimes brings out the best in individuals. For example, the two time hiding that AB de Villers has given to Dale Steyn in 2012 and 2014, arguably the best bowler in the world, proves the point. There have also been instances where bowlers have defended a meagre six runs off the last over, a phenomenal feat, considering the nature of the game.

But however intense the environment maybe, flinging bats at opponents and constant bickering can never be justified. And unfortunately, the IPL has a huge fan base among youngsters and budding cricketers, which complicates the issue. When their role models indulge in aggressive acts and use gestures/abusive language, the example being set is not really a favourable one. In a format where quick thinking and swift execution is of prime importance, the “spirit of cricket” seems to have always taken a backseat.

In the past decade,T20 cricket has sparked some wild innovations in all departments of the game and has definitely taken the quality of cricket being played to a notch higher. The IPL is one of a kind tournament, the one that fills the BCCI coffins with mind boggling revenues and brings together the best talent in the world. The general perception is that the IPL has improved relations among the players of different countries. But periodic incidents such as the Pollard-Starc spat force us to reconsider the authenticity of that statement. The focus of this cash rich league has never really been on cricket alone and sadly has relied on gimmicks and controversies to stay in the limelight.

It is probably true when somebody remarked that “cricket is no longer a game, but a multi-million dollar business industry”. An industry where showmanship has taken the lead over the willow vs cherry contest. The good old cricket fan might cringe at this thought, but it remains a sad fact. Cricket is, in every sense of the word, a sport. The players must recognize that being a sport also counts, just playing will not suffice.

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Sensationalizing Media

As TRP and advertising revenues take precedence over actual content, there has been a gradual degradation in media quality. The in-your-face news and celebrity gossip only serve to entertain rather than inform. With the influx of dedicated Page-3 tabloids, even the most mundane incidents involving celebrities have been glorified to absurd extents. Here are a few incidents which would have fizzled out were it not for the undeserved media attention showered on the situation.

 

Sensationalizing Media

Kate Middleton prank call

 

As a member of the Royal Family, Kate Middleton has always been a media fixation.  A seemingly innocuous visit to the King Edward VII Hospital turned into a needless media spectacle when a radio presenting duo from Australia made a prank call to one of the nurses on duty. The call was transferred to Kate Middleton’s private nurse who inadvertently leaked out the Duchess of Cambridge’s medical details out on air. The fallout was tragic, the nurse in charge committed suicide amidst the outrage. The ensuing controversy also invited the attentions of a Member of Parliament. The inquest on her death will be held on the 2nd and 3rd of May.

 

IPL: Shahrukh Khan’s scuffle with the authorities

 

Being the perfect fusion of the inherent desires of your everyday Indian: cricket and Bollywood, IPL has become embedded in public consciousness.  Not without the help of a few odd controversies though, prime being the scuffle between ”King of Bollywood” Shahrukh Khan and the security guards of Wankhede Stadium, one of the premier cricket stadiums in India. This was followed by a barrage of accusations from both sides. Khan was subsequently banned from the stadium, although efforts have been made to rescind the ban.

Charlie Sheen’s meltdown

 

One of the highest paid actors in television, Charlie Sheen underwent one of the most startling and heavily publicized falls from grace. After his enforced divorce from his third wife, he committed a series of drunken debaucheries and made bizarre statements in public which culminated in his removal from the acting cast of the hit T.V. show, “Two and a Half Men”.  He now stars in “Anger Management”, a show based of the movie of the same name.

Shahrukh Khan’s detention in US

Not far away from the public limelight, on this occasion Shahrukh Khan was unwittingly cast into the spotlight after he was detained in New York on grounds of his ethnicity. In an issue which sparked a mild diplomatic outrage, Khan was surprisingly nonchalant instead opting to joke about it in his speech at the Yale University.

M.F. Husain’s exile

 

In one of the most unfortunate incidents in India, celebrated artist and film-maker M.F. Husain voluntarily exiled himself to Qatar amidst death threats and glaring media coverage. Incessant coverage of his painting had bought about the attentions of right-wing Hindu groups. Cases were filed against him and his house was attacked. This forced him to set up camp in Qatar where he lived till his death.

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Indian Partition League

Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, Mohali, Hyderabad, Pune. Five years ago, if you asked someone what these nine cities had in common, you would get a bunch of confused and varied answers, if any at all.

Now, however, the same question would trigger a spontaneous response from a six year old. IPL.

Sadly, what connects these cities is also what divides them. Summer has become a time when the country is cleanly divided into nine.

Club over Country? : It’s time cricket took the limelight

Divisions are synonymous with sports, especially team sports, and even more so when the teams are based on pre-existing geographic and cultural divisions. The IPL, following on the footsteps of the English Premier league, one of the biggest sporting events in Europe, has divided the teams in such a way so that people can identify with their team.

Even though this has not caused problems in England, it is risky to assume that the same can be applied to a country as diverse and culturally sensitive as India.

The huge brand value and fan following of the IPL has made things worse.

Advertisements of IPL mock cultural stereotypes, instead of promoting the event. A lot of people are sensitive to such depictions, and an even greater number of people enjoy making fun of such people. Soon, it will no longer be about the cricket. As if cheerleaders and popular actors weren’t enough.

In spite of all this, the IPL is still a huge event. It should just take it down a notch. Instead of promoting rivalry among different regions, the focus should be on cricket. If IPL is promoted as a cricket extravaganza rather than a civil war, then everyone will benefit, and we can all go back to watching Chennai win.

 

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