With Champions League only days away, it is quite remarkable how no noise has been made about security and other arrangements.
News channels and sports shows have concentrated on the 12 teams participating and their chances. It is such a relief from all the hue-and-cry that was made when this year's Indian Premier League (IPL) was moved out of India.
I was furious as to how the entire episode with this year's IPL was handled. Here you go, this is exactly how I felt when the announcement was made that IPL was moved to South Africa following security issues.
March 24, 2009
"Indian Political League," "International Premier League," "Indian Problem League," "Indian Premier Letdown" screamed headlines across news channels and portals the moment IPL bosses announced that they were taking the domestic league overseas.
As one would expect the reactions from politicians, franchise owners, sponsors and organizers reflected that the buck was passed on. Of course, none of them could be held responsible for the sad state of affairs. Somebody else was—what else?—accountable.
Well, if anything, Shaggy’s famous song "It wasn’t me" would easily clinch the deal as the undisputed theme song of IPL2!
Shashank Manohar, President, BCCI, tore into a provocative speech that predictably revolved around how "sorry" he was in taking the IPL out of India and that he deeply "apologized" to the people of India for having to take "their" tournament out of "their" country.
Asked whether they could have done anything to keep the domestic tournament "domestic," he said that they were left with no choice but to take it outside owing to indifferent "attitude" of the government.
Bottom line (BCCI): The government is accountable. It wasn’t me!
Narendra Modi, Chief Minister, Gujarat, criticized the Congress government for "shaming" India’s image as a safe State. He even went to the extent saying that his state would provide the security to hold the entire tournament there even while Gujarat’s DGP (Director General of Police) remained equivocal of providing security should the entire tournament be held there.
Bottom line (Gujarat): No doubts (barring its DGP!) in our capacity to provide prudent security. Of course, it wasn’t me!
Hallo! How about the communal riots in Godhra? What about the security then?
P Chidambaram, Union Home Minister, came out all guns blazing demanding explanation to Shashank Manohar and Narendra Modi’s comments and said that the security issue was decentralized and that it was an issue with the "state governments".
Bottom line (Central Government): (In chorus now...) It wasn’t me! And, of course, Jai Ho! They have the official rights for that song, remember? And also, if every one is watching cricket who is going to attend political rallies?
Lalit Modi, Chairman, IPL, said that the "tournament had to move on in the interest of "cricket"and "fans," Anyhow, there were "2 billion eyeballs" watching it on TV last year which put the IPL on a pedestal with Olympics and FIFA World Cup as a sporting spectacle.
And that "99 percent" of the audience previous was TV audience, and that the tournament would still cater to the Indian audience at "4 p.m." and "8 p.m." IST! So much so for city based franchise and rivalry!
Bottom Line (IPL body): We provided 42 different options to the home ministry, but then...it wasn’t me!
P Chidambaram even said that the IPL was a "shrewd" marriage between "cricket and business" and that there was no need to bring "politics" into it.
Well, Bollywood has successfully embraced cricket. They use if perfectly well to promote films and swell their popularity. If the reason behind not providing security was really that they didn’t have enough resources to cover both election rallies and the IPL, then, they should have brought them both together in this marriage!
If Bollywood stars can go to a cricket match and appeal to the fans to watch their new offerings, then surely the netas can address the fans and ask them to vote. Surely, that would be a feather in Lalit Modi’s cap—IPL deciding the fate of the Indian government (SMS the text VOTE A for Congress, VOTE B for BJP...and send it to 12345!).
Extending on the thought, it would be fun to listen to netas campaigning between innings of a T20 game: views on morality when skimpily clad cheer girls are doing their thing at the boundary. I would like to know what a Bangalore neta has to say when Chennai’s Dhoni is smacking sixes at the Chinnaswamy and vice-versa.
Fantasies aside, the point is IPL is the only, I say that again, only sporting brand to come out of our country. Superbowl and MLB are American; Wimbledon and EPL are British. The IPL has surpassed them all in popularity and viewer ship in a single season (2008).
We are not a sporting nation by any means, but cricket is a way of life here and by taking it out of here, we have affected the Indianness of the sport. Of course, the TV ratings will be high, and of course cricketers will remain demigods, but our netas have taken our happiness outside of here.
Of what significance is a Bangalore vs. Chennai match to a student in Yorkshire or in Cape Town?
Whatever is the answer to the people who filled up stadiums in Bangalore and Hyderabad game after game even when there was no semblance of their teams winning?
Who is to blame? Is that what happens when Sharad Pawar and Arun Jaitley wear the hats of both cricket administrators and politicians? At least, who made the most of politicizing this entire thing?
All I know is one thing: It wasn’t me!