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By Suresh Menon
The Pavlovian responses at an IPL match mean that the next great innovation is just round the corner. A cricket match where no cricket is played. If the goal of Marxism is the withering away of the state, in IPL it is the withering away of the game itself.
Flashing lights, loud music, inane chatter by a DJ all contribute so much to the IPL experience that the cricket seems unnecessary. Here’s the report of a typical game:
6.00 pm: The in-coming crowd picks up the placards, the flags and the jerseys while ensuring that their noise-makers are in working condition. Nothing they can bring in short of an atomic bomb is, however, likely to make a bigger noise than the official noise issuing from the official DJ and the official muzak issuing from the official speakers.
7 pm: About 30 percent of the crowd is already showing signs of tiredness after the constant screaming, waving and craning of necks to distinguish between Preity Zinta and Mukesh Ambani.
7.30 pm: The captains come out to toss accompanied by a huge roar from the crowd and an even greater roar from the DJ. But wait a minute. That doesn’t look like either Sangakkara or Tendulkar. They are securitymen who can’t find a place to stand in front of your face and are making their way to the wicket where they hope to get a better view of the game.
7.55 pm: It is too early to say who will who will rock you, but this Queen favourite seems to be the theme song of the IPL. Has Lalit Modi paid for the rights? After all, he expects everybody else to pay for the rights for even thinking ‘IPL’ (oops, there goes my paycheck).
8pm to 8.30: The DJ whips the crowd into ecstasy like some mystic promising nirvana. “Are you enjoying yourself?” he asks, to which the proper response apparently is “Yes”. Then, abruptly changing the topic he leads the chanting with a ‘Jumbo, Jumbo’ before realizing that Anil Kumble is not playing this match, and so switches to ‘Sachin, Sachin’, which the crowd had been chanting since the previous week anyway. And so it goes on. Nobody notices that there is no cricket taking place in the middle.
8.32 pm: Time for the DLFCitiModiICCipadUNHCR strategy break. Time for We will we will rock you (sung to the tune of We will we will rock you).
8.48 pm: The first attempt at a Mexican wave. “Start from my right,” advises the DJ to an audience which has no clue where he is speaking from, and so Mexican waves collide in the middle. But the excitement is high.
9.20 pm: The giant screen shows Shah Rukh Khan waving to his fans, the biggest of whom, Lalit Modi is sitting right beside him waiting for his turn.
9.30 pm: Celebrity-spotting on the giant screen. Isn’t that Shilpa Shetty’s driver? Nita Ambani’s hair dresser?
10pm: Excitement reaches a fever pitch as episodes from Lalit Modi’s life are shown on the giant screen. Modi as a baby. Modi suing his mother for trying to say goo-goo-gaga like him. Modi with his first car. Modi with Amir Khan’s telephone number written across his chest like the actor himself from a recent movie.
10.28: Another BCCINatoDLFMaximum strategy break. The crowd goes wild.
11pm: The PA system goes ‘Tratttaaattaaaa’ for the 64th time and everybody screams. The cheerleaders miss a step, nearly shocking the DJ into silence.
11.20 pm: The backdrop is quickly put up, one of the commentators who has some superlatives kept in reserve for just such an occasion gushes about the greatest, most incredible, sexiest match that has just concluded, introduces some of the greatest, most incredible, sexiest guests ever assembled in front of a billboard and announces that the crowd has been unbelievable and a great inspiration. At this, the unbelieveable and inspiring crowd breaks into a cheer.
11.40pm: Preity Zinta, unsure whether her team has won or lost, and uncertain whether she ought to hug Yuvraj Singh or Sangakkara realizes that there are no players on the field and she is a hug behind the game. She hugs a sleeping securityman just before the cameras are switched off for the night.
11.41 pm: Everybody goes home happy. They have seen the cheerleaders, the Zinta hug, the Modi wave, yelled and danced on cue, waved flags, probably appeared on live TV, and can’t wait to return for the next ‘match.’
Who needs the cricket anyway?