Besides offering a world full of opportunities, IPL is a powerful tool that inspires enthusiasm and glee among people.
Sawai Mansingh Stadium at Jaipur on May 11 was glowing with spectacular charm. The mood was eclectic. Every step leading up to the stadium was lit up with dazzling colours. Large and imposing cutouts of players stared at the people from every possible angle. Youngsters and elderly alike turned out in large numbers to witness yet another spectacle of an Indian Premier League (IPL) match between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Vendors of all hues did brisk business at the road leading up to the stadium; most notably those selling Dhoni No 7 tee-shirts. Part-time tattoo makers were sought after too; and this writer’s cricket crazy kids could not resist the temptation of getting a CSK flag embossed on their cheeks.
As we entered the stadium, the dazzle was even more overwhelming. The relentless music, the blazing IPL siren and the fluttering of flags created an ecstatic ambience. And, of course, one could not afford to miss the cheer leaders and their mindless acrobatics. When the history of 21st century India will be written, IPL will stand out as one of the biggest success stories which galvanised sports, marketing, commercialisation and entertainment into one single event. Today, an extraordinarily large amount of money rides piggyback on this Indian cricketing mahakumbh that has sent the market, media, cricket fans, TV channels, advertisers, sporting companies and spectators in a tizzy. No other event triggers such widespread jubilation and excitement as IPL. As a student of sociology, this writer admires its economic and cultural ramifications and wishes to list down a few.
IPL certainly means a world of opportunities in terms of new jobs — from budding cricketers, support staff, ground staff to street vendors, merchandise makers and even cricket commentators. Numbers around it are fascinating and have huge significance. As per industry data, $94 million was spent by the eight participating teams to buy 169 players in an auction. This is a seven-fold rise from a year ago when $14 million was spent to acquire 66 players. Star India too spiked its stake when last year, it bought the five-year global media rights for IPL at a whopping $2.55 billion, making IPL one of the richest sports properties in the world. Star expects 700 million people to watch IPL and aims to generate an advertising revenue of over $300 million. Valuations specialist Duff & Phelps valued the IPL brand at $5.3 billion in 2017; a 26 per cent increase from $4.2 billion last year. Little surprise, the IPL is being spoken about in the same vein as the UK’s English Premier League and the US’s National Basketball Association.
One is certain that the huge money that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) earns out of this sporting bonanza is spent in promoting cricket across the country through investments in both infrastructure and nurturing young talents.
In a society largely to witness unprecedented acrimony in social and public discourse, IPL may have served as a powerful tool of cultural cohesion by inspiring glee and enthusiasm. For instance, a few good sixes from Dhoni or Virat Kohli or Dinesh Karthik trigger phenomenal applause and ecstasy. A good 63-ball-128-run inning by Rishabh Pant or a rookie Mayank Markande, who got prized wicket of Dhoni in his first match, become talking points from high-end bars in big cities to corner tea stalls in small towns. This also has other implications — with the country seemingly in the midst of a Titanic ideological polarisation, a sporting event brings about a semblance of consensus. Infusing widespread happiness among the children and elderly alike is another subtle spin off of this 50-day celebrations.
For anyone with keen pair of eyes, IPL may also serve to buttress India’s long-standing image as a melting pot of diverse cultures. By bringing in players of diverse nationalities and making them a part of local teams, we are in a way living up to our reputation; and this has significance for India’s brand value as well. An English Jos Buttler in Rajasthan Royals; South African Imran Tahir in CSK; West Indies’ Chris Gayle in Kings XI Punjab; and New Zealander Trent Boult of Delhi Daredevils serve as big brand Ambassadors for India.
However, IPL does leave the parents worried for sustained distractions it causes among the children. It does eat up lot of productive time of children — and that leaves the parents with a unique challenge to negotiate. The brazen flamboyance with which the women cheer leaders are shown on television — which is akin to perpetuating gender stereotyping of equating women with dance — too is disturbing. Though this criticism has been countered by bringing in male cheerleaders, it does little to neutralise the flaunting of the gender stereotyping. One hopes, this is done away with in 2019.
(The writer is a strategic communications professional)
Writer: Navneet Anand
Courtesy: The Pioneer