MONOJIT LAHIRI investigates why and how India’s most glamorous, popular, celebrated and eagerly-awaited sporting franchise is under a cloud. Can it recover its glorious early days of freakout fun n’ excitement? Can it bounce back to convince potential team-buyers that the bad luck visiting some of them is merely a coincidence and ache din aanewala hai, for sure? Was it all too much too soon, a hand grenade waiting to explode … or is the IPL, like India’s democracy, super-resilient forever equipped to brave all storms and emerge triumphant?
My amused, opinionated friend cannot resist his take. “Boss, what goes up, must come down! It was too good to last forever and the bubble had to burst sometime. Agreed Lalit Modi’s idea of cricket, glamour and entertainment doing a sexy tango was a chhakaass winner – given India’s craze for spectacle & dramabaazi – but aukaat kahan jayegi? Soon rampant corruption crept in, taking the heart out of our hurrahs. However, such is the diwangi for this IPL bimaari that despite all the crap that coloured it, the brand hardly ever lost either fans, sponsors, media coverage, advertisers or hungry buyers! However, this body-blow [banning 2 signature teams, CSK & RR for two years to compete in the IPL] could mark the beginning of the end of this great honeymoon, unleashing tons of very relevant but uncomfortable questions … like, will it mean a Dhoni-less IPL and a 6-team tourney? Which players will be most affected by the ban? How much money will be lost? Will young aspirants desperate to get into IPL teams, to secure financial security and bright prospects to go up the pecking order in Team India, now suffer a trust deficit? Will big ticket sponsors pull out? Can/will CSK & RR players move to other teams be up-for-sale? Expanding this theme, should this entire IPL idea [more glamour, drama, big bucks & corruption] be totally scrapped because clearly its too hot to handle and too vulnerable to temptations of the negative kind with zero accountability & huge popular approval, its biggest danger?”
My buddy’s volley of questions really threw me, but on a closer look, they were indeed based on solid logic demanding response from the powers that are. As the plot thickens with new scenes playing out in the IPL drama each day, one amazing curious & scary fact cried out for attention – the roster of boom-to-doom fate of hi-profile IPL team owners, once passionate paramours of the IPL dream who lived it lustily, now thudding to terra firma and nightmare-ville!
Take a look. What better symbol to kick off this part of this flop show than the flamboyant, larger-than-life, king of good times Booze badshah, Vijay Mallya! The Royal Challenger of Bangalore, who consistently doled out telephone number cheques to players – Yuvi Singh! – he fancied, flaunted and hosted dazzlers from B-town & fashion world is today reduced from CHEERS-TO-TEARS! His Kingfisher airline is grounded as is his control over his UBI empire and the tycoon is in deep, deep shit! Sahara groups Subrata Roy – one time bosom pals of U.P. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, networking chief extraordinaire Amar Singh, Reliance Boss-man Anil Ambani and of course Bollywood’s towering inferno, The Big B – comes next. Amidst hi-pitched media shoshaa, the Sahara Shree bought the most expensive team in 2010 [Pune Warriors]. Today, the big shot is languishing in jail, unable to rustle up funds for a bailout due to – allegedly – zillion financial ghaplas. Raj Kundra – NRI businessman & hubby of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty – enjoyed his moments in the limelight as team-owner of RR, until he was caught betting and slung out for two years, amidst public shame. T. Venkattram Reddy – Deccan Chargers – had to let go the team after a fraud case gripped him. CSK chief N. Srinivasan – the controversial heavy – had to vacate his BCCI throne and his India Cement had to let go CSK. His dear son-in-law Gurunath Meyiappan – sone pe suhaaga – was also banned from any serious cricket-related activity – due to his bindaas betting spree! Hi-profile, suave politician, Shashi Tharoor lost his ministership after a franchise-related sweat equity investigation and soon after, lost his wife amidst a blaze of publicity under dubious circumstances. Ness Wadia & Preity Zinta too – former lovers & co-owners of Kings XI Punjab – fell out in acrimonious fashion, in full public view… and the less said about the disgraced & in-hiding Lalit Modi, the better!
Interestingly, despite all this scary, shameful & sordid taints colouring the IPL lovers, fans & followers of the brand refuse to dial-out or believe that the END is near. Respected sports journalist Pradeep Magazine nails it with knowledge and wit. “Boss, we are a scandal, corruption & drama-baazi-driven nation! Open the papers, switch on the TV and you can be sure that somewhere or the other, something [fishy or funny] is going on every day, with people in high places, implicated. So, by and large, all this golmaal, hulchul & hungama comes with the territory, surprising, shocking & scandalising the puritans for sure, but for the vast IPL loving junta, its just a bad day in the office. Besides, the IPL format is lethal with short duration, oodles of glamour and thrills that gives the other entertainment avenues – movies & serials – a solid run for money, because this can be enjoyed, at home, with the entire family, for FREE! Our public – for whatever reason – also seem too fatigued, apathetic or desensitised to corruption in high places because in no other country would blatantly unethical practices [as the one demonstrated by RCB, RR or CSK, be tolerated. They are in it for the Breaking News thrill but, impatient for the show to go on!” Magazine believes that it is the hottest 40-day blockbuster and its success is proven by international stars wrapping up their careers to be a part of this monster, big-bucks, mega-show! He adds that real danger [irrespective of the ensuing drama played out each day] will only happen if and when the cash-rich board is hit by revenue-problem, with sponsors pulling out, channels giving the event a miss etc. “However, until that happens, every storm in this fours & sixes carnival will be cleverly negotiated because the IPL brand-equity – like a multi-starrer featuring all major hotties – is a proven, pre-sold product …” So, ladies & gentlemen, clearly I WILL BE BACK [Arnie-style] is on the cards but one moot question remains … how long will corruption, a conspiracy of silence and vested interest continue to plague the IPL and how long will the cricket-crazy forgiving public continue to bail them out??