First, let’s get some facts straight:
• IPL is the only Indian global brand. There are two or three more maybe: Infosys, Kingfisher beer and Tata Salt (not because of the salt but let’s admit, because of Tatas).
• In terms of a minimum risk business model IPL is one of the very few multi-crore businesses which can be called Indian made. Even iron ore mining as we know is fraught with too many risks.
• IPL is the only potentially successful original business model that India has created. Though it is a remake of the soccer leagues abroad, it is a neat blend of European and American strategies. And, it has worked. All our business models and ‘Made in India’ products are also copy-cat editions but few work well.
Now IPL has been upon us for five years and we have confronted its success rather reluctantly. Every now and then there were voices of disgruntlement. Always it is the moral brigade that pipes up first. The cheer girls need to cover up. How can a cricket team party after a game, etc, etc.
The defeated politician yet successful litigant Subramanian Swamy is a classic representation, when on 18 May he called for a ban on IPL since it conflicts with the gentlemanly game of cricket.
In all this there is a conflict between the imagined India of the elite (moral, correct, Sita as icon, gentlemanly, law-abiding) with the real India which is constantly aggressive, rude, loves black money and BMWs, breaks every law while being the most prodigious maker of disastrous laws. A few years back a columnist rightly pointed out that the Income Tax Act has so many amendments that it can be said to have been amended every alternate day of its existence.
So the real India, apparently doing well, has no link with the imagined India of certain elite classes of people. The IPL is for the masses both washed and unwashed, but yet the fact that some Indians are having unabashed fun is seen as an evil social trend. Apart from the fun there are the huge sixes. And no defensive strokes. So it is seen as loutish and not gentlemanly.
Accompanying these spurious calls for restraint and bans are certain politicians and bureaucrats who cannot stomach the fact that a private organisation with no fully paid staff has built-up this humungous and potentially multi-crore league. Again, the IPL is big and is a fully private enterprise. There is no government hand in it apart from the policemen. However, there is huge government presence in the boxes–all the free ticket babus who demand from the corporates their share of the fun, for free.
And in the midst of all this we hear frequent calls for government control.
The desperate effort to demonise IPl, as something foreign, something vulgar, not exactly fit to enact a Manusmriti type moral code, gaudy and loud hasn’t abated even after five years.
This scuffle is a normal Indian activity. Of course, parliament is where new methods of scuffle and screaming and shouting and tearing of bills are taught to the country. That is the real Indian style and we need to accept it. So what is wrong if Shah Rukh Khan imbibed this lesson and had a scuffle? Let’s assume that he had the scuffle for the fun of it and that he had two pegs of single malt in the evening. What’s wrong with that?
And who took the moral high ground in this incident? Vilasrao Deshmukh, now cabinet minister and president of MCA, a person who was removed twice from the CM’s post and put out to pasture in Delhi, who instantly grabbed the media opportunity to ascend a moral pedestal and reprimanded and banned a super star known and admired world over, for a minor scuffle which does not even merit a police complaint. Not once have we seen him address the press to talk about heavy industries, his portfolio.
The molestation allegation against a player should of course be taken seriously but why connect it to the success of the IPL? Does success breed molestation urges?
I love Sony Max for constantly thumbing their noses at the ‘Moral Dal’ and sexing up the TV coverage. Commentators made to piroutte to Punjabi music is the ultimate in this wacky act. Can you imagine, skimpily-clad girls almost next to Sunil Gavaskar who as a former Test cricket complained would be reading a novel as they took girls to the rooms which they shared.
But really, the IPl is the only Indian show which foreigners envy and are trying to be a part of. The entire cricketing world lives in India for the two months of the IPL.
The IPL has helped India appropriate cricket completely. We like the rest of the world are a bit flummoxed.
For once though, let us be proud.