All the world's a stage exclaimed the most famous playwright of all time. Ask Lalit Modi about it and he'll readily agree. This may not be the greatest show on earth but it certainly comes close to being the greatest show in the cricket world. (to me the India v Pakistan WC 96 quarterfinal will remain as the numero uno on that count ). When Brendon Muccullum swiped all those sixes on the opening night little did he realize that he had just clapped and said "action" to signal the start of what one can truly claim as a cinematic experience, complete with scantily clad cheer girls, crying stars and rebellious superstars. The theatrics on the field and off it (the forced hug and make up picture of sreesanth and harbhajan complete with Farokh Engineer desperately trying to remain in the picture, will remain among the most comical images of the IPL) would have impressed many a veteran actor. To see the same foreigners who would crib about playing in India in the heat of April queue up to get their share of the pie is possibly the best indicator that money is the overriding factor in anything and everything. Maybe its time for Master Card to change their slogan.
One wouldn want to be left out of such a historic tournament and when the chance came for me to be part of the action, albeit in the sedentary role of a spectator I grabbed it. So on the 21st , with free tickets courtesy Sunil, and Aadi for company I stepped into the ground pretty apprehensive about whether I'll get my money's worth. Considering that the Royal Challengers were playing that was a pretty tough ask . In case anyone is wondering what money I am talking about, it is the time that I was investing in the exercise and I believe in Time is money concept. At least that way with so much time in hand I can feel like a millionaire. With a live concert by Tipu going on, getting into the mood wasn't too difficult and we settled down pretty fast. As the sky darkened threatening showers and then delivering on it, anxiety set in about whether the match would happen. Almost everyone had a prayer on their lips to get the clouds to go away (though at the end of the match the same people were suggesting that a rain would have ensured a better result for the CSK)
As the rains went away and the chances of a full match became brighter so did the faces of everyone around. After all you don't pay in the hundreds and thousands to watch the rainfall. As soon as the match started the whole stadium seemed to ride on new found energy. The best part, about this game atleast, revolved around song and dance. The songs blaring from the PA system and the dance routine of the rather excessively gyrating cheer leaders of Royal Challengers. With a costume that would first send the local politicians to their graves with their heart stopping moves, and then make them turn in them protesting against such "unacceptable public behaviour", they were the ones inducing life into a game which had long been done to death through boredom, thanks to inspid batting performances by both the teams.
Two things became very apparent to me sitting there in the ground. One, Dhoni is pretty much the biggest selling celebrity in Indian cricket at the moment. Despite a string of failures, from his bat and his team, the cheers which greeted everything from the announcement of his name, to his arrival at the toss, his fielding and his batting entry were unlike anything seen before in a cricket ground (except quite obviously Sachin and maybe Dada at the Eden Gardens). The icing on the cake was the song they played on the speakers when he came into bat, "Singam Pola Nadandu Varan chella perandi.. "(translated as "My grandson has the majestic walk of a lion")" from Dhool. One is not sure about the grandson part, but he well and truly seems to have become the most loved adopted son of Chennai.
The other fact which became very clear was that IPL is the biggest cricket success story of the decade. As much as I hate to admit it, (yes I am one of those so called "tradionalists" who'd prefer watching Shivnarine Chanderpaul battling England all alone on the final day of a test match) IPL has brought in amazing entertainment value to cricket. It makes one feel he's got his money's worth at the end of the day. Maybe Lalit Modi does deserve a pat on the back. After all this is the second big he has done for Indian television, the other being the rights holder for Fashion TV in India. Not surprising then that he has figured out that scantily clad women and cricket are a heady mix in India.
P.S Talking about heady mixes, it is worth mentioning that the man has been arrested and jailed on the accusation of possesing drugs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lalit_modi) . That i guess just about proves that he's a seasoned campaigner when it comes to giving people a high.