naya pankha.

so i’m not the biggest supporter of the ipl. i’m particularly opposed to the stringent media restrictions they’ve had in place, particularly when it comes to specialist cricket websites like cricinfo. last evening, as i saw lalit modi smile sagely and pseudo-modestly while tv interviewers gushed at his vision and talent, i couldn’t help but cringe at the sheer pettiness of it all. 

neither is the huge influx of money heart-warming, coming as it does to the wealthiest sport in the subcontinent. 

as for srk, the mehtas, the ambanis, the wadias, and all the other guys who’ve shelled out millions for their franchises, well, they’re all businessmen, right? and an expensive punt is still a punt.

sure, it’s special to see jayasuriya and tendulkar walk out together. to hear crowds roar for tanvir and mcgrath and shoaib akhtar. to see sehwag grin as his bowlers get bashed around the park. 

but what really warms the cockles of my jaded heart is this: the new cricket fan.

much like the casual gamer, the n.c.f. is predominantly female, has a shortish attention span (but great loyalty), and really couldn’t give a fig about history.

her affections shift from match to match, but she knows whom she likes. she has a point of view on cheerleaders. there’s great affinity to the franchise owners she knows or recognises. and, night after night, she’s watching a form of cricket that she understands, appreciates, and, most importantly, enjoys.

if you think it’s about moms and aunts abandoning their saans-bahu serials due to family pressure, you’re hugely mistaken. it’s about discovering a brand new source for your daily fix of drama, emotion, excitement, and fashion inputs.

and it’s fabulous.

didn’t require mandira or sidhu. didn’t need fandom campaigns or jingoistic cheers. this is the n.c.f., and she knows exactly what she wants from her 8 pm show.

and she’s getting it.

ps: do take a look at sambit bal on ipl. it’s a lovely piece.

naya pankha.

more bad behaviour.

or, how to further lower your four-foot-nothing stature.

just head on over to aamir khan’s blog, and read his post today on, of all things, his dog named shahrukh. it’s a study in pettiness and cheap shots — i’d expected somewhat better taste from an actor-director who, by all accounts, strikes you as reasonably intelligent and well-informed.

grow up, aamir.

or, at the very least, think twice before hitting the ‘publish’ button.

 

more bad behaviour.

the king of badly-behaved times.

dear dr. mallya:

at the outset, let me clarify that i am no fan of the royal (laughter) challengers. on paper, they were a dull, uninspiring, utterly random team. on the field, they make that description seem flattering. their efforts have gone from lame (82 all out v. kolkata) to struggling (final over victories v. mumbai and hyderabad) to amusing (126 v. mohali) to downright pathetic (143 v. mohali just last night).

i’m not even a great supporter of the hype-pl, it’s way too much cricket, night after night. not only has it dented my reading, it has also completely eradicated all other telly watching for me. don’t get me wrong, i think it’s sweet and inspiring to see the pakistanis play alongside the indians, and it touches me deeply to see the country-neutral teamsmanship, especially in outfits like chennai super kings, delhi daredevils, and rajasthan royals. but it’s still too much.

however, i’m digressing. this post isn’t about the ipl, or even about the royal challengers. this is purely about your stunningly atrocious behaviour (as documented by the media, and i do hope your pr agency makes you go over the news reports again and again, so that you may see what an ugly spectacle you make) of the past few days.

in fact, i’m in grave danger of sympathising with the challengers, as i now believe you are single-handedly responsible for their dismal performance.

think i’m being harsh? let’s take a look at your ipl-related activities (bit lofty to call them achievements):

1a. you take your popular whiskey brand, add an ‘r’ to it, and then explain it away as a whole new concept — “born in bangalore to thrill the nation”, etc. huh? does that even mean anything?

1b. just for kicks, you also plaster the logo onto other teams with space for sale: like the rajasthan royals. (and no, i don’t buy the ‘royal’ connection, as at least two other teams are ‘kings’.)

1c. after seeing the happy ‘fly emirates’ branding on epl teams like arsenal, you’ve gone and pasted ‘fly kingfisher’ on all umpires. copycat.

2. you appoint, as brand ambassador, a hongkong-born, hawaii-bred, british citizen — who lives in mumbai!

3. you advertise, shaan se. and continue to advertise!

4. you wax eloquent about the wonderful team you, rahul dravid, and charu sharma have put together. three weeks later, you talk about some other ‘list’ of players you had in mind but somehow — magically, wondrously, unbelievably — couldn’t assemble.

just one question, dr. mallya: why?

are dravid and charu sharma so influential that you couldn’t get a word in edgewise? or was the auction money outsourced? or were you just hungover/ jetlagged/ drugged silly/ temporarily insane?

besides, who in the world foisted sharma upon you?

sure, dravid was an icon, and therefore came with the territory, but if you really didn’t want him, you could’ve bid for another city, couldn’t you? god knows either the kingfisher or rc brands are appearing on more than three-quarters of the teams.

since you come from a business background, let me ask you this: if you launch a new product, and it fails to take off, wouldn’t you promote it aggressively, i.e., reward people for buying it? so why aren’t you trying to incentivise your team, instead of bashing them in the press? remember, they couldn’t care less: you’re still bankrolling them for the next three years, unless they get traded next february. (and yeah, i can see the other franchises falling all over themselves to take kallis and joshi off your hands.) ironically, it’s young charu who’s saying all the right things in print, at least.

another, slightly more dire solution would’ve been to pull the product. (and not fire the product manager. gracelessly. and without a media gag in place.)

don’t you feel the liberation of being the bottom-ranked team in the league? you could play an all-indian team for the next match, in a mad display of patriotism. or an under-25 team (i’d say under-19 but hey, unlike me, you’re into older men). or bench dravid and make kohli captain, in an irreverent hat-tip to his under-19 world cup victory? or, indeed, any crazy combination you feel like? say what, if the rules allow it, how about opening the batting yourself? maybe with katrina at the other end — she’s a kaif, isn’t she?

why not turn the rest of the ipl season into one giant party?

have you learned nothing at all from your force india outing? now sitting pretty at no. 10 on the overall ranking. with zero points. (yes, there is a no. 11, and yes, they’ve withdrawn from the championship.)

or your stunning politicial debut in 2000? yeah, the one where your party didn’t win a single seat, in spite of contesting almost all 224 of them?

come on, dude, you should understand losing well enough. or is the only spirit you understand the kind that comes in a bottle?

you’ve taken a crap, underperforming team, and actually justified it by being an arrogant, insensitive ‘owner’. maybe, in all that ranting about the corporate implications of team sport, you’ve forgotten that you are still the larger, more visible, most permanent face of united spirits.

and boy, does that face make me cringe.

the king of badly-behaved times.