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Stop right there, I can hear the weary reader ask. We’ve done cheerleaders already! It’s old news. What possible excuse could you have, two and a half years after the first agitation of a pom pom at a cricket game, to witter on about it again? Well, I’m glad you asked me that. It just so happens that earlier this week, the state government of Rajasthan banned cheerleaders at all Jaipur’s IPL games. Thus cheerleading is topical and I have something to write about. Big thanks to Prabha Rau and friends.
So. Cheerleading. Just like a proper journalist, my first and indeed last stop on the research railway was Wikipedia. Therein, I learned that cheerleading began in America in the 1890s when some jumped-up little herbert decided that it wasn’t enough for a crowd to amuse themselves; they needed organising and their willy-nilly cheering channelling in a constructive fashion. There were lots of other paragraphs after that, though I forget the details. I’m not a proper journalist, after all.
But why has this alien tradition been transplanted to the great game of cricket, leading to the discomfiture of the sofa bound viewer and the discombobulation of the fine politicians of Rajasthan state? There are three possible explanations:
1. Let’s get vulgar for a moment. IPL cheerleaders are (by and large) attractive young women. They are therefore employed for the sole purpose of diverting half of the crowd. But diverting them from what? Presumably from the cricket. But isn’t that the very thing that they have paid good money and queued for three hours to see? That doesn’t make much sense. I mean, when you go to the ballet, do they present you with a selection of cricket magazines to distract you from the dancing?
2. They are necessary to organise the crowd’s jubilation. Hmm. Thing is, from what I have seen, Indian crowds are quite able to put together a cheer (not to mention a roar, a scream and a little dance) at very short notice and entirely without direction. Whose cheers are they leading, these cheerful women from various parts of the United States? The crowd know what is happening and have already been shouting about it long before the leaders of the cheer clamber onto their podium.
3. The most plausible of the three. Some poor chap in a suit found that his mind had gone blank right in the middle of an IPL blue sky thinking session. The room fell silent and the miscreant felt a little bead of perspiration on his forehead as Commissioner Modi prepared to press the ‘minion trapdoor’ button. Then suddenly, he remembered seeing girls in short skirts during the World Twenty20 in South Africa. “Cheerleaders!” he shouted. Modi didn’t immediately send the man plummeting into the tank of sharks below and so the idea slipped quietly into the minutes.
It looks then, as though cheerleaders are here to stay. Apart from in Jaipur, obviously. It is worth noting however, that while the government of Rajasthan have banned female cheerleaders, they have not banned cheerleading. If his Modiness is in a particularly cunning mood (and my bet is that at any given moment, he is feeling more cunning than a fox with a particularly devious chicken apprehending scheme) he could draft in some Rajasthan-friendly replacements.
But which of Modi’s cronies could be relied upon to do the job? You need someone who isn’t embarrassed about making a spectacle of themselves in public, who can dance to any tune and yet isn’t likely to excite the libidos of innocent viewers. I know what you’re thinking. The answer is staring us in the face. Yes, step forward Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavaskar and Daniel Morrison. Give it up for the Mischief Boys! They’re scary, they’re unwary and their legs are rather hairy!
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73