The “obnoxious weed” (courtesy Matthew Hayden) is at it again. A couple of weeks into the Indian Professional League, Harbhajan has usurped the most entertaining factor in the league: the cheerleaders. Somewhere down the line after the mind-numbing display of batting over the first two weeks, the matches are beginning to be regularly lop-sided. I get it though. IPL is not about the cricket. It’s about entertainment. It’s about Shah Rukh Khan jumping in the aisles and Preity Zinta rushing to the ground to give “her” team a good old hug for finally winning a match. It is about the razzmatazz and the ability to satisfy the short attention spans of the viewing public. The format of the game is biased towards the batsmen and it takes an extraordinary bowler by McGrath to dictate terms. We’ll get to that later. The debate on the merits of this form of the game can be endless. To get back to the top selling points of IPL, the cheerleaders were heralded as the great “innovation”. Vijay Mallya brought to India the pom-pom wielding Amazons from the Washington Redskins. Their presence was warranted so much that Dravid and co. were banned from the ground while they perfected their routines. They hogged the limelight, they hogged TV time by jumping to action anytime a four or a six or a wicket came about (and there were plenty of those to come by) and the hogged the radars of the moralists who are worried about the length of their skirts upsetting the rather delicate minds of the Indians who apparently can’t keep their eye on the ball.
They had the center stage, until Harbhajan arrived. He captained his side, the Mumbai Indians, to a third successive loss in the IPL. Perhaps his patience gave way. Perhaps the culprit, the man who can single handedly bring down India’s cricketing reputation down, Shantakumar Sreesanth, needled him a wee bit too much. But it happened nonetheless. Harbhajan’s hand rose above his head where you couldn’t fault him for not bending his elbow enough, and it came down with the grip of a doosra, one that an inexperienced Sreesanth couldn’t be faulted for not anticipating. It landed on Sreesanth’s face just in the right area sending his head into a spin that he couldn’t handle. On being thus dismissed, he let his disappointment known. Tears rolled down his face uncontrollably and the rest is televised history.
Perhaps Harbhajan took his loyalty to his team too seriously. Aren’t these players a bit like hired mercernaries? Would a Pollock really care Mumbai wins or Bangalore does? What’s his loyalty to the city? As per the franchise system he might get transferred somewhere else. These matches are a bit like matches I played in our building while growing up. Two strong players would be captains and the rest be picked turn by turn. Everyone just played to get their chance to do their bit with the bat and ball. Winning would be a bonus. No teams would be the same over two days and it really was entertainment. Perhaps this simplistic view of the IPL is necessary for me. Cricket after all is my passion and I’ll love IPL, even if I end up treating it with the partiality of a step-child. While IPL doesn’t give me the satisfaction of watching cricket, the least I can derive of it is the entertainment. For that, I need to thank Harbhajan and congratulate him for topping my charts. It’s a slap in the face of the all-domineering cheerleaders.