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Cricket is not an 'item number'
by Gulu Ezekiel
Mar 29, 2008
It would be funny if it were not so pathetic—the ‘rebel’ Indian Cricket League and the BCCI’s baby, the Indian Premier League are now no longer flaunting the quality of players in their respective leagues. Instead they are busy informing the media—via frantic ‘breaking news’ e-mails-- about the latest ‘item number’ actresses who will perform at their matches!

The world already knows of the IPL’s Bollywood connection courtesy of cricket’s wunderkind Lalit Modi who loves to be seen in the presence of glamorous stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta, both of whom he has roped in as franchisee owners. The ICL has been frantically trying to play a game of catch-up ever since the IPL stunned the cricket world last month with its mega-bucks player auction in Mumbai.

Although I expressed grave doubts about the ICL at its launch last year, it is pretty impressive to see how those behind the venture are toiling against the odds to make it a success. Still, for their PR agents to keep sending mailing press releases breathlessly informing the media that ‘Celina Jetley is set to sizzle at the ICL games at Gurgaon today’ and the likes is getting ridiculous.

IPL’s advantage is that it can learn from the ICL that came first and hopefully not repeat its mistakes.

Already the ICL organizers have found they are up against security issues at their Gurgaon venue where rowdy young men have tried to attack the cheerleaders, mainly young Ukrainian girls sourced from Mumbai where they earn a living as ramp models and extras in Hindi movies.

Reports have also emanated from the Teri ground that the Pakistan players, representing the ‘Lahore Badshahs’ team passed lewd comments at Celina after her ‘sizzling’ dance performance the other night.

All very ugly and it is becoming obvious that the 20/20 crowd in India is liable to be pretty boisterous. This has already been noticed in England where this format originated a few years ago and where the spectators at these games are being increasingly compared to football hooligans.

Ironic then that Preity Zinta, part owner of the ‘Kings XI Punjab’ franchise from Mohali has told a newspaper that 20/20 cricket is the ideal format for families.

She has also commented ominously that IPL will “witness the marriage of cricket and entertainment” in India, something I am sure all cricket lovers are beginning to dread.

While she has remained mum as to whether she will perform ‘item numbers’ of her own at the Mohali stadium, we will no doubt shortly be bombarded with even more reports about the various ‘hot’ starlets ready to sizzle at the IPL. It is a thought that fills me with dread.

The strong links between the movie world and cricketers is of course nothing new in India.

I have always maintained that these movie stars gravitate to cricket and attach themselves to the game like leeches as it has glamour and profitability associated with it in India.

The cricketers are not complaining either. Stories of liaisons between players and actresses are legion. And now the entertainment world has brought players unheard of wealth thanks to the IPL.

But those who constantly inform us that sport after all is entertainment have got it wrong on one crucial front.

Entertainment of the movie kind is both scripted and escapist. Sport’s beauty lies in its unpredictability, despite occasional bouts of match fixing.

There is plenty of action and excitement in 20/20 cricket. Let us not divert the focus from the cricketers themselves and get too caught up in all this glamour business. There is surely a time and place for ‘item numbers’.

 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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