Monday, May 3, 2010

Just Pontification 3: Indian Power League

It should seem that any blogger or twitterer would have already expressed all that is expected to be said about the Indian Premier League of Cricket. It does not seem to have affected the way IPL is to run except for some cosmetic changes. Nor should we expect it to change.

This blog is not at all much about the IPL, although a few comments would seem to be mandatory. It is more about a meandering, probably logically non-sequitur-ed, sequence of thinking which could lead us to being indifferent to muck of any of the Indian Power League kind, in a positive way.

After all, most of the loveable things in life don’t depend on being powerful. So they say. And so I have found.

The Indian middle class fascination for the sport of cricket is so ideally suited to the physiognomy of the ever so expressive Indian face when it is faced with the opportunity of elocuting (elocution: the art of speaking clearly and well with correct enunciation) in a foreign language on anything that is profoundly trivial. This was particularly true for the longer version of the game when we had time to discuss the finer features, talking about the late cuts, and the glances, and bowling a maiden over, and the cover drives that whizzed along the ground all the way to the boundary, standing at silly point, and at short gully, and the fielders shimmering in white in the cordon of slips, and the drinks intervals, and the tea interval, and the lunch interval. Each of these intervals would see us bring out the corresponding food or drinks containers. Going to a test match was like going to a long-drawn Japanese kabuki theatre performance or a Bengali jatra, or a long drawn out katcheri at the Mambalam Gana Sabha, or listening to poets at a kavi sammelan.

The necessity for a shorter version of the cricket game was analyzed and recognized early by cricket administrators in England who were seeking to revive test and county cricket with something like the tempo of a football match. Peter Roebuck wrote “… From the outset it (forty overs cricket) was a success. Families so inclined could attend church, enjoy their traditional Sunday roast and then go to the cricket. Freewheeling types could sleep late on the Sabbath, go to a pub at noon and wander down to the ground, ready to cheer on their champions, by 2pm. For a few hours, usually dormant cricket grounds came to life, with songs and cheers and gasps and the other accoutrements of dramatic activity.”

The shorter version of the game aimed at being like a rock-concert, all hype and energy and fundamental and vacuous celebration.

In the Indian context, it is the genius of Zee TV’s and Essel Group’s Subhas Chandra that resulted in starting and financing the Indian Champions League of cricket. Subhas Chandra recognized the remarkable appeal the game had for the Indian middle class.

The ICL of Subhas Chandra was truly a private enterprise aimed at a new upwardly mobile IT class raring to let go of their cubicled energy for an expensive all frills night out, with the examples of the exuberance of the football fans all over the world. ICL was the first big effort in which real private money was invested in twenty-twenty cricket and which set up the general format for the game, including cheer leaders.

Add to this the Indian cricket fan and success could not be denied,

Needless to say, it is Pawar’s genius (read Lalit Modi’s genius?) to recognize the ICL potential and to use all their bullying skills to make it their own.

All is fair in love and war. What more love than the love for power? Ask Aurangazeb.

The death of ICL and the rise of IPL is a classic example of how political clout is so important in licensing a business by framing privileged rules in India. It is there in all aspects of achievements in all spheres of Indian life. We always attribute it to our chalta hai attitudes. We have no reason to be shocked or to protest; so scared are we and so reminded are we of losing our non-independent livelihood. We only await our turn in the next life.

The IPL in India is like all power leagues in India. It is dominated by the traditions of a caste system, which now democratically allows all castes to use the hierarchy of the caste system that is measured in terms of the size of their vote banks.

Pawar used (or was made to use) his political clout as an important partner of a definitely minority Congress government to make the erstwhile government-nominated BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) an irrefutably private body. Quite cynically, the BCCI had important representative from all political parties so as not to be accountable to the public. As Chairman of BCCI Pawar got the finance minister to give tax exemptions; he manipulated fickle minded ICC (International Cricket Control) members by using Indian cricket’s financial clout; he then manipulated the rules to fix the ICL, who were denied permission for players, denied use of stadiums, and denied television coverage. Lalith Modi’s expertise in Cable distribution business and Pawar’s son-in-law’s Sony contacts saw to it that the IPL coverage promised more than ICL in revenues. ICL was systematically and maliciously choked out.

All said and done, it is perhaps true that there are no more men with bones who care to see the Pawar game for what it is ... a ruthless game for Power with a huge booty to boot.

On the other hand, as Lalit Modi’s father seemed to have said on TV something like ‘what is wrong with making a little money?’. There was a good opportunity in Rajasthan Royals as very few could invest on the teams and someone in the family invested on inside information. We have been using inside information in our business for years.

It is futile to add to the already existing literature on IPL. There is enough spin on the subject to frustrate all truth hunting.

The IPL has changed the way the average television viewer looks at his favorite programs. There are some geriatrics like us who are not really dependent on TV even on IPL nights; if only because there is so much else to love life for with the simplest and cheapest things in life.

Do we care? Yes we do. We care because we think there lurks a real danger of the exclusive and intelligent minority of being overwhelmed and marginalized irreversibly because of trivia. This is the danger of the all pervasive television media, who make idiots out of all of us.


Its difficult for some one brought up, say,
 on a Buddhist background of Bengalis, or
 brought up by happy-go-lucky (that’s what I thought ‘gay’ meant) Roman Catholic Missionaries with their catechism and Moral Science classes, or
 brought up on the heady pre-independence days of noble motivating speeches, or
 on radio classical music programs of those days where the harmonium was banned, or
 even on PGWodehouse’s Psmith


look at the present Indian Television advertisement programs that are spiced up by gossip channels in the garb of “breaking news”.


Its not that one really wants to watch TV when one has so many other time-occupying things to do with one’s skills no matter how untalented one is; except that you hope that perhaps one day they will show you “Love in the Afternoon” with Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn …
Not because Audrey Hepburn’s charm made you fall in love with love

But because of John McGiver (on the left in Fig 1 from a scene in Breakfast at Tiffanys), one of the more harmlessly disgruntled men on screen, who played the cuckold-ed Monsieur X in the movie so well that the rest of the charms in the movie became believable because of him.

McGiver (in Breakfast at Tiffanys, Gazebo, Manchurian Candidate, etc) was the small man who made people believe in dreams so as to avoid being like him.

McGiver, loyally married and father of ten to show for it, died of a heart failure at the young age of 61.

Tendulkar would still be playing cricket at that age!? So would have Ganguly? if he did not look that culpably honest?

McGiver usually represented the totally average, totally honest man, a role most difficult to play with conviction as an actor and more so in real life…

Or, as he did in the “sounds of silence” episode of the television series “The Twilight Zone” where as Roswell G. Flemington, he is “…two hundred and twenty pounds of gristle, lung tissue and sound decibels … a noisy man, one of a breed who substitutes volume for substance, sound for significance, and shouting to cover up the readily apparent phenomenon that he is nothing more than an overweight and aging perennial Sea Scout whose noise-making is in inverse ratio to his competence and to his character.”

How well we know these men who run our public life including the Indian Power Leagues!


So while switching channels to avoid seeing what you might be forced to see, there comes a time when you cannot avoid seeing/hearing the ever-deniable, undeniably juicy, “details” of the misdoings of everyone one you never expected to do any good in any case.

There are these English medium channels which could have been considered to be intelligent had one not understood English. They have, in any case, so much engineered cacophony that the language of their yelps and screeches is really not important. They sound the same no matter what the topic of the discussion is. Some people who have been brought up on gentle and polite old-world household atmospheres, get into this John McGiver like expressions (Fig 2) when faced with such noise.

We tend to be bullied into nincompoopery by these channels --- especially if we are young enough to pay attention to them and be thereby softened for the advertisements.

Each of these channels has three or four of their favourite experts of seemingly different political shades of the same orthodox political base of making apolitical money, whichever way. These channels then smugly conclude that they are the custodians of free speech and offer intelligence to the disinterested on aspects that would enhance their TRP ratings in whatever way that they can. They especially abhor taking a moral stand unless it offers them an opportunity to make money.

For increasing their TRP, what is better than the Indian Premier League and their Shenanigans (things that are deceitful, underhanded, or otherwise questionable – Thesaurus)?

TRP is the root of all evil
( see “Money is the root of all evil”,

If you want no income tax mister, Take it easy & relax mister, When they offer work be strong & say, Take it away, take it away, take it away
I got the one I love, I got the moon & stars above, I got my youth & my health, What do I want with wealth?)

Who wants to be a zillionaire … I do … and I do … for that’s all I want to do…

Kyprios sang

I got a bank in the Caymans
Never stay with the laymen
Pay the gods off on Sunday, Amen

We can all make money, or so one thinks. You only have to dance the way they want you to, by exposing yourself the way you have to …

Kyprios sang

O.K. man, first you make the music, then you get the money, then you get the power OK...


It is about resisting making money that should be important to us good old (emphasis on old and not on good) Bengali Buddhists who wouldn’t kill a snake or a mosquito. We would not even pluck a ripe mango just because we are tempted, … although one has to reach a ripe old age for that (?).

Why Buddhists? Why not? They seem to have been the first perpetrators of honesty that was so necessary as a survival philosophy. They thought they are strong enough to survive presents without hoarding for a future. It was not only Gautam, the last Buddha, but the many other earlier Buddhas of Tibet who all renounced the world at twenty eight and became enlightened under the Bodhi tree or whatever…

Why one should be enlightened, or why one should admire those who preach after their enlightenment, is not at all clear. It probably helps to spend time and sell time-pass items like tea and ale and tharra.

Animals don’t seem to seek enlightenment even instinctively. I have not seen many examples of animals gathered around and listening intently to another central figure, except perhaps once in an English country side with a bunch of seated Jersey cows listening to a central standing cow who did not have much to say actually since she was chewing fodder and looking as wise as Margaret Thatcher or Sarojini Naidu; much like any other politician ruminating out of turn from the wrong end.


There are, however, images we would like to have for ourselves. Much of our undoings are due to our efforts to keep up with the Jones’s, especially those of the mundane kind who go by their Main Street (Sinclair Lewis, 1920) standards.

Sometimes we harmlessly imagine we are living a standard that we dream of. There is this 1956 movie called High Society with some of the best looking blue-eyed actors of that time, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly. This was the last movie Grace Kelly acted in before she took up the Role of Princess Rainier of Monaco, which she must have done with perfection.

I saw the movie four times in three days…not for the blue eyes… but because of Louis Armstrong who had a role that was not at all relevant for the story but was relevant for Cole Porter’s music. There was this song “Now you has jazz” sung by Bing Crosby and Satchmore ( with lyrics that had you jiving even by reading it. This song would “Wish to show you now, Precisely how, Jazz music is made”:-

Take some skins, Jazz begins,
Take a bass, Steady pace,
Take a box, One that rocks,
Take a blue horn New Orleans-born.
Take a stick With a lick,
Take a bone, Dixie-grown,
Take a spot, Cool and hot,
Now you has jazz jazz jazz, jazz, jazz.

No amount of mula will get you heart throb of the excitement of jazzing about like this in real space and time (at least at that time and that age when I was all of eighteen!)

The other actress in this film is Celeste Holm, who famously said,
"We live by encouragement and die without it - slowly, sadly and angrily.”

She featured as Liy in one of the songs from that movie “Who wants to be a millionaire?” with Frank Sinatra as Mike with lyrics that kept us who would not be rich rather satisfied
Who has an itch, To be filthy rich?
Who wants the bother of a country estate?
Who wants to wallow in champagne?
And have uranium to spare?
Who wants to tire of caviar?
Who wants to ride behind a liv'ried chauffeur?
And sleep through Wagner at the Met?

To which Mike and Liz would both sing
I don’t … and I don’t… 'Cause all I want is you.

That, loving and sharing, was the cheapest thing to do. Celeste Holm looked far less impressive in that film than she was in real life.

Celeste Holm’s first husband of one year, Ralph Nelson, produced a son Ted Nelson, who introduced hypertext and hyperlinks into the computer language without which www may have been perhaps as dead as a mechanical calculating machine?

Holm wouldn’t have had a Nelson if she had not played at 26 the naughty Ado Annie in the first Rodgers and Hammerstein’s play, Oklahoma!

The difference an exclamation mark makes! According to the publicists of the movie the master stroke in making the play successful was on adding the ! after Oklahoma. It seems they even wanted the exclamation mark on the Oklahoma state flag!

Would we have had Ted Nelson and his hypertexts if the exclamation mark was not there?

The more relevant question may be ‘Would Ted Nelson have been born without love?’ and did profits and divorce shape his hypertext?

The Platters would sing later
What good is a song if the words just don't belong?
And a dream must be a dream for two
No good alone, to each his own
For me there's you.

There is no doubt that the cricketers of IPL play hard and straight even if they may be reluctant at times to follow all instructions from people who make the profits.

They must love the game even if they, at times, may love the glamour they gain from it.

When you are waiting for the whistle to blow I am sure, how you won the game, but the way you played the game.