The good thing about the end of the IPL season is that everyone, including children, can go to bed on time. The bad news is that it is over. Now we have no excuse to avoid the nine o’clock news or all the serials the entertainment channels telecast for our viewing pleasure.
For many of us who are not passionate about M S Dhoni and his helicopter pyrotechnics, the IPL has still had its uses: It is like background music. You can let it play on and off from 7 pm onwards while you talk, treadmill walk, eat, pray (with one eye on the scoreboard) and yes, even love. You can mute the sound (sorry for the oxymoron) because other than a string of superlatives to describe the string of fours and sixes hit by Shane Watson in the final and others throughout the last six weeks, there is very little to gain from listening to the commentary team — never mind which language they speak in.
This year, Star Sports took over the IPL and added a few flourishes to a game already replete with exaggerated acts. It extended commentary to more languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali. There were more women commentators too — Lisa Sthalekar and Isa Guha to name two — and there was a T20 game for women, perhaps as a prelude to an IPL for women soon. The likes of Scott Styris, Michael Clarke, Graeme Smith, David Lloyd, etc — spent a lot of time in a kind of dug out space where they tried to replicate the shots being played on the field, not always successfully, and offer analysis. There were also some strange games they played occasionally among themselves — who could hit the ball the hardest — which they, at least, seemed to enjoy.
Yes, you can’t say Star did not try to provide entertainment, entertainment and more entertainment to the game. Did the IPL need more than the action on the field to attract our attention? Not really — viewers wanted to watch Rishabh Pant play shots they had never seen before and Rashid Khan bowl mysteries around the batsmen, including Indians, famed for playing spin, which they couldn’t fathom. He was a real star of this IPL, especially after his innings in the virtual semi-final against Kolkata Knight Riders. For real diehard fans of the game, there were enough airy-fairy shots and balls to keep them satisfied — and awake beyond their bedtime.
Which brings us to Sunday’s final. Now shameless Shane Watson, that selfish fellow without a thought for viewers, reduced the game to a no-contest, leaving us plenty of mind space to contemplate the two-hour special show on Star Plus, Party Toh Banti Hai, featuring Ranbir Kapoor, who must have been there to promote his forthcoming film on Sanjay Dutt — there were enough references to it, anyway. He was joined by cricketers to talk about cricket (what else?) and execute some dance moves instead of cricketing shots. Brett Lee is all set to replace Shah Rukh Khan in the latter’s next film, going by his imitation of him.
Al Jazeera’s sting alleging match fixing in Sri Lanka and India but not by Indian players only Indian bookies — phew! — was telecast on Sunday too. Watching it does alarm you but since we don’t hear, see or witness the actual “fix” it is difficult to decide how far the claims made by boastful “fixers” are authentic. One Aneel of D Company allegedly belonged to the “match fixing division” if you please and claimed that games in the forthcoming England-India series would be fixed by English players — we Indians can breathe easy since no Indian player has been implicated.
Away from cricket, we have other concerns: The highly-respected TV journalist Ravish Kumar has now had to appear on TV shows on NDTV, late last week, to share the increase in the number and virulence of death threats against him and his family from right-wing trolls who don’t like what he says on NDTV India. Such threats further undermine the media’s independence at a time when it is already in question with the kind of “journalism” we witness on many channels which openly support the current government and make it their business, daily, to hold the Opposition accountable. Also, those of us who have watched the Cobrapost tapes online, would find them disturbing,even if we have questions about their modus operandi, intentions and accuracy.
Are we protesting? If not, why not?
We could learn a thing or two from Roseanne. The TV show on the American network channel ABC was withdrawn after its star, Roseanne Barr, made extremely distasteful racist comments about someone who had served under President Barack Obama. Her show, which had returned after a hiatus of a decade, was the top-ranked sitcom across channels at the time that ABC pulled the plug on it — the show was openly supportive of President Trump, by the way. That the media in the US stands up and makes a point to be seen to stand up, should be something we could think about emulating? Yes?