And so, it’s April – when summer, sweat and all-night air-conditioning is well and truly upon us, especially in Mumbai. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d also know that April brings with it the Indian Premier League; a bit of cricket, a lot of entertainment.
For IPL 1, 2 and 3, the cricket seemed no more than a sideshow, cricketers playing second fiddle to dancing actors, actresses perfecting their pout, coquettish cheerleaders, businessmen and businesswomen, and a commissioner who must have felt like a giant puppet-master pulling a hundred different strings.
Finally, this IPL, it seems it’s less about the drama, and more about the cricket.
I hope it’s true for the team that I’ve sworn (secret) allegiance to – the drama being an important part of their season every year. Strong favourites? Finish bottom? No-hopers? We’ll win the damn thing, that’ll show you, you and you. As a Mumbaikar, I have a special affinity towards Hyderabad, a city where I’d spent an awesome year, right during the heart of IPL 1 (and, I must add, at the end of the ill-fated ICL). So I must now come out as a silent, closet supporter of the Deccan Chargers.
There, I said it. Somewhat sacrilegious, considering I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Mumbaikar. Go ahead, judge me.
In my defence, it was the perfect alignment of several planets; some Hyderabadi cuisine, Adam Gilchrist, VVS Laxman (are there two bigger gentlemen cricketers than these two?), a stadium at arm’s length with no scalping required for tickets, and finally, the somewhat annoyingly catchy anthem “Go, Deccan Chargers, go Chargers, go, go, go!” Simple enough to follow for the team, unlike say KKR, which didn’t adhere to either ‘korbo’ or ‘jeetbo’; just ‘lorbo’. (Yes, you may now troll me). Wooden spoon? Nope, nothing of the sort happened in IPL 1, all our memories are playing tricks on us. How else can you explain the victory in SA in 2009?
As if it couldn’t get better, there was IPL 3, the coup de grace. Can’t play in Hyderabad or AP? No problem, we’ll just play in Mumbai, said some guy with infinite wisdom. Christmas and Diwali had come early for me, and together. In Mumbai, and Navi Mumbai, I may have cheered both times with the Mumbai crowd, inside I felt a little gutted. A drinking game I invented around Gilly’s hits turned out to be a super successful/traumatic one, depending on what side of 30 you were.
The sporting drama almost threatened to turn into melodrama. In 2011, every player was released back into the auction pool, DC becoming a feeder team (yes, franchise, I know) to Mumbai Indians, losing its nucleus. Sure, it’s nowhere near as bad as, say, Kochi Tuskers Kerala (which doesn't even exist anymore), or even Sahara Pune Warriors, but as a fan, I take it as a signal that the owners aren’t interested in winning the trophy, or even putting together a team (franchise, last time I swear), just managing a business.
So with Dale Steyn and Sanga, I’m not counting any form of poultry yet. But I’m quietly confident that it won’t be the same sense of bewilderment that accompanied 2011. So now, it’s time to play again. As a fan of DC, and a fan of cricket, I could do with a little less drama. For this IPL 5, I pray and hope for one thing – that it’s only about the cricket, and nothing else. No slaps, no change of country, teams playing in stadia they’re familiar with and not having tiffs with local cricket associations, and finally, no effusive praise for a blimp in the middle of an over.
Ok, that last one was perhaps one too far. And just in case you’re wondering, no more drinking games.