Tanya's Take

Tanya Aldred

Greedy or good?

There's plenty of over-the-top excess in the IPL, but there's a fair bit to like as well

Tanya Aldred

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Shilpa Shetty greets Vijay Mallya ahead of the IPL auction, Mumbai, January 19, 2010
Oh you got one too? © AFP
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Series/Tournaments: Indian Premier League

The IPL3 - marmite or jam? Grotesque and greedy 21st-century monster that thrives as unrelenting capitalism stutters all around, or cricket's chance to move into the future, secure its financial security and bring pleasure to people who have limited leisure time? As I lounge in a very unathletic pose on the sofa, cup of tea in hand, packet of mini-eggs nearby, and flick on ITV4's coverage, I find myself uneasy, despite the sometimes thrilling cricket, the fun, and the obvious enjoyment of the crowd. Why? Well here goes:

1 There is something about the millionaire franchise owners wearing dog tags, understated but expensive clothing and immaculate blowdries, watching over their many-dollared playthings with a proprietorial air that is slightly distasteful. It is all a bit Lord of the Manor watching his serfs plough the field, only with vast sums of money involved rather than sheaves of barley.

2 Why are the cheerleaders all white? Aren't there any Indian dancers? Surely they could dress in a culturally acceptable way if crop tops are not considered de rigeur. Or wouldn't they be Caucasian enough to attract the American market? Am I missing something obvious here?

3 I know I've not been following cricket with unfailing devotion over the last few years, but since when has a six, the most thrilling shot in the game, been known as a DLF Maximum? Why doesn't it stick in the commentators' throats? And just how much money does it take to lubricate that particular phrase?

4 And while we're at it, what has happened to the famously rich language of cricket - especially from English-speaking Indians with a well-deserved lyrical reputation? The literary associations, the thoughtful phrase, the letting the pictures do the talking? Sixes, sorry DLF maxs, are "100% out of here". Shots are appreciated with a theatrical grunt, moan or "Woooah". Does brutish cricket have to be appreciated in brutish language?

5 What's a strategy break? And why do you need one in a 20-over game the whole selling point of which is that it takes place at breakneck speed? Ah. Of course. It must be another chance for the lucky viewer to peruse a few more advertisements for his pleasure. Because there are just not enough exploding pop-ups appearing like monsters out of the screen when a wicket falls or at the end of an over. By the by, I'd like to know how many cars Mercedes think they are going to sell on the back of this. Just how many of the 400,000 ITV4 viewers have a spare £50,000 in their pocket?

Why are the cheerleaders all white? Aren't there any Indian dancers?

And yet. And yet, it is not all bad.

This is the first free-to-air cricket to be shown on British television for five years. What a treat to be able to watch not only Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid but Shane Warne and Lasith Malinga and Dale Steyn and the odd English (or Irish) man and the young up and coming Indians without having to pay a subscription. ITV should be shouting it from the rooftops. I hope that cricket clubs the country over are sending out reminders to their colts to switch the telly on. Perhaps it can develop a niche following, as Italian football and American football at one time had on Channel Four.

For whatever the disputed wonder of Yusuf Pathan's speedy hundred the other day, skill still thrives. Anil Kumble's googly to Saurabh Tiwary on Saturday was gorgeous. Kallis has been playing beautifully. Some of the fielding has been astonishing - against the Mumbai Indians, Rahul Dravid took a fantastically athletic one-handed catch which finished with a head over heels.

Unless the television cameramen are being very careful with their camerawork, the grounds are full. The paying public look as if they are having a ball, the bands keep a constant stream of noise and the dancers do their business. The sun is shining, the game is anything but moribund. The players, too, seem to be having fun, and they obviously care - Tendulkar was waving his hands about and looking almost freaked as Bangalore crept effortlessly up on their target on Saturday. The huge amounts of money floating around obviously do not negate meaning.

The IPL is a huge sticky and sickly and delicious pudding that gives an instant sugar hit, and is a guilty pleasure. But the question is, will greed overtake us and will we stop in time?

RSS FeedTanya Aldred lives in Manchester. She writes occasionally for the Guardian

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Posted by Saumyajit on (March 27, 2010, 3:48 GMT)

I am quite surprised with people comparing IPL with the European football leagues. I am not too well versed with NBA, NFL etc. so won't comment on that. But for starters -

The European football clubs were not bought through crass auctions but were built over decades Football players are not bought at auctions. I mean yes, there are transfers, and price wars over some players...but there is nothing as crass as 10 teams sitting around a table and outbidding each other under full public scrutiny Last time I heard (which is last sunday) a goal is still called a goal, same with free kicks, tackles, saves etc. The passion for IPL teams and Football clubs is not even worth comparing There is minimal sideshow in football, definitely not something as conspicuous as cheerleaders, live performance during matches, and camera zooming on movie stars and celebrities at frequent intervals

I like watching the IPL, but wouldn't justify the blatant commercialization by drawing non existent parallels

Posted by N on (March 26, 2010, 16:57 GMT)

What about the really good things about IPL that has not been talked about in the article and not much elsewhere. Where have you seen Rahul Dravid, coming and giving a friendly tap on the shoulder for Dale Steyn ? Where have you seen Greeme Smith and Yousuf Pathan share the joy of a falling of a wicket ? Symonds who had such a horrific time with Indian fans being cheered for hiting a six of Zaheer Khan ? Could you have even imagined this possible after Sydney gate? What about thousands of sports persons and entertainers getting money. What about that upcoming sport person who could never get a chance at big stage who has better financial security. So in general felt this article lacked depth in perspective. Yes IPL is a commercial entertainer. No less no more. So stop this chirade of critic of an article.

Posted by Janaki on (March 26, 2010, 15:26 GMT)

Nice critique!! Cricket part of the IPL has been good but it has been hard for me to tolerate all the nonsense you talked about in the article.

Posted by Steve on (March 26, 2010, 10:48 GMT)

I think the headline for the article is quite fair - IPL is both greedy and good in certain measures and most of my Indian friends agree. The "Everywhere Man" Mr Modi (everywhere being where the camera is currently pointed) has done a wonderful job promoting IPL and himself in equal amounts. I have watched many games from seasons 1 and 2 and a few from 3 and am yet to be convinced that the overall standard of play is that high. Certainly a large number of the international level players have been generally very good but large numbers of the domestic players (Indian and overseas) have not been as impressive as some commentators would have you believe. As for the skin colour of dancers, who cares? Aren't you there to watch the cricket?!!

Posted by N on (March 26, 2010, 6:37 GMT)

I agree with Vidya Ponnathpur. It is like a disease to critic IPL on its greediness. It is no different from EPL, NFL, NBA and other leagues. Atleast the author acknowledged that she is getting it free to watch. But connecting the dots we pay by watching the ads and listen to DLF maximums. But from people who created entire holidays based on commercialism it seems hypocritic. Christmas has become some commercialized that many people are forgetting the whole idea behind it, but it has become all about buying gifts. What about even halloween. Do you know the reason for changing into day light savings time around halloween ? It is to sell more candies. But I suggest to suck it up and watch it if you like. If you prefer the test matches go sit and watch it and have it called a Six rather than DLF maximum. by the way a catch is Karbonn kamaal catch. I like IPL and but I love testmatches. I have no qualms about IPL, it is loud and I like it.

Posted by Kannan on (March 26, 2010, 5:26 GMT)

This is a well thought out article by Tawnya. There are both good and bad parts. What I have the most problem with IPL is the amount of money they are playing the players. 1. In some other sports, yes there is money being paid like in Baseball and NFL. However those players relocate to the cities where the clubs belong to and work hard throughout the year to win the tournament. However in IPL most players are unavailable half the time to play some other tournament, and many players apparently don't have enough time to prepare for this major tournament and show up unprepared. And some players are just in for the money and they are retired from main stream cricket and not as good. So why pay them so much. 2. India has so many problems like poverty, corruption, unemployment, overpopulation, lack of infrastructure etc. Also India is really bad in other sports and doesnt will many medals in Olympics. So why not invest in improving infrastructure of india rather than wasting money on IPL?

Posted by Cric on (March 26, 2010, 5:04 GMT)

Many comments below talk about Indian obsession with fair skin. While that is true, the phenomena is not as isolated as it seems. In US, women (and men) are crazy about tanning and spend much more on tanning salons and cremes. May be people just like to see something different... or set themselves apart.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 26, 2010, 3:09 GMT)

Point is, how do we get rid of the crap and make viewing a truly enjoyable experience. Otherwise, IPL will fall on its greed.

Posted by Eddy on (March 26, 2010, 0:56 GMT)

it is always funny to see the lemmings attempt to defend the indefensible.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 26, 2010, 0:53 GMT)

Some really interesting points from an outsider's perspective. But Indian preference of fair skin is a point been raised time and again, still largely unexplained.(Case in point, all the fairness creams being advertised and sold here). Even in this money making frenzy, a semblance of thought is being displayed by Lalit Modi. The time out is now an integral part of the game itself, hence "Strategic". Also, the team owners seem more nostalgic/proud/hurt but never bossy.

@Dunc, I dont know about others but Shane Warne will definitely remember IPL. He recounts IPL1 as the best phase of his life(and should take up a considerable chunk fo his autobiography). Similar thoughts are likely to be shared by likes of Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hyden, Anil Kumble. Furthermore, to me IPL is creating a more tolerant Indian audience. Its rare to see an Indian cheer an australian/ pakistani. The same people who cheered for sachin in the warne vs sachin series of 98, now cheer for Warne when he captains RR

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Tanya fell in love with cricket during England's Ashes-winning summer of 1985. She went on to be features editor at Wisden Cricket Monthly and a regular-ish contributor to the Guardian. She once hit a six over a sea wall on the Isle of Wight.

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Tanya Aldred Tanya fell in love with cricket during England's Ashes-winning summer of 1985. She went on to be features editor at Wisden Cricket Monthly and a regular-ish contributor to the Guardian. She once hit a six over a sea wall on the Isle of Wight.
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