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IPL highs and lows

The tournament stirred up controversy before the first ball was bowled

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published: April 4, 2013 3:23 am

First,there was Mamata Di in her trademark white dhoti slung carelessly across her shoulder,wearing an expression that was something between gratification and bemusement (Sony Six,Sony Max). Second,there was a lady in a white flowing dress,suspended in mid-air with a crown of multi-coloured balloons,performing acrobatic stunts holding the IPL cup. Finally,we saw emaciated girls,without food and water in drought-hit Maharashtra. It was “cheer girls” up against “poor girls” as Zee News described them,and we don’t need to ask who was the winner.

IPL 2013 began on a high,quite literally,but was controversial even before the first ball was bowled on Wednesday. On Tuesday evening,some news channels were hugely exercised by two issues: the amount of money wasted on the “razzmatazz” (Arnab Goswami,Times Now) of IPL’s opening ceremony; the volume of water used by sprinklers at stadiums where the matches will be played even as the poor of Maharashtra don’t have a drop to drink. Small wonder we saw Shah Rukh sipping Mango Frooti during a commercial break (Sony Max).

Then,CNN-IBN wondered if IPL was “losing credibility” after the Bombay High Court asked cricket associations,who had defaulted on arrears for police security during IPL matches,to pay up or face legal action. And NDTV 24×7 discussed the repercussions of overseas players being prevented from playing at different venues in India because of regional politics. As former cricketer Atul Wassan put it,if Italy played cricket,we wouldn’t have allowed their players near our shores.

Not that IPL 2013 at the Salt Lake stadium cared a pizza. It was time for celebrations and such little matters were not going to spoil the evening. And what an evening. It began with Rabindranath Tagore’s “Where the mind is without fear” recited by Shah Rukh Khan and ended with a bang as fireworks — no,not the bat and ball variety but the ones that light up the sky — lit up the sky. In between we had dancers,acrobats,drummers,many of them performing up in the air before the lady in white,dangling from above,handed over the trophy to last year’s winning captain,Kolkata Knight Riders’ Gautam Gambhir.

Not sure about the symbolism attached to these mid-air performances or their link to cricket. They seemed something straight out of the Kingdom of Dreams. The actual inauguration of IPL 2013,with the captains signing a fair play pledge on screen,was incidental to the tamasha. They were hurried away,as Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif,followed by SRK,took over. Navjot Singh Sidhu,watching them with the critical eye through which he usually views cricket,thought Padukone had “reinvented herself”,Kaif was the most “chamatkaar” siren of Bollywood (not hard when you are dressed in a golden gown and crown as she was that night) while SRK was well,SRK at his best (Extraaa Innings).

Khan,who had produced the show,did his best to dance but by his own admission,he is rather like Pappu — he can’t dance. He flung himself about most energetically,working up a healthy sweat and then promptly sat next to Mamata Banerjee,who looked somewhat uncomfortable. Nothing personal: she looked like that throughout the spectacle,so it had nothing to do with SRK. Perhaps she had heard Times Now go after her for the death of a student leader on Tuesday in Kolkata and was feeling the heat?

On Monday night,the news channels wanted to know if the BJP had finally been “Modified” enough for Narendra bhai to formally be declared the party’s PM candidate. Was it NaMo or NaNo? Times Now,which doesn’t waste time on such silly puns,asked: NaMo versus RaGa on Monday and devoted Discussion Time(s) India to the match-up. Only to find that they had to “Modify” the terms of reference the next day. “Manmohan vs Modi?” was up for debate on Tuesday after the Congress said the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi model was “ideal” for the future. Now,should we believe what we heard on Monday night from all the experts or what they said on Tuesday? Most confusing.

Better to switch back to the IPL opening,where Usha Uthup and Bappi Lahiri got everyone clapping and then Pitbull brought the stadium to its feet.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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