It hasn’t sunk in yet and I don’t think it will till the next season of Premier League begins. The thought of Manchester United without Sir Alex Ferguson is scary, daunting and gut-wrenching for fans of the club. How do you deal with the idea of a man who was a constant for the last 27 years not being there in the manager’s dug out? 1,146 managers came and went in the top four divisions of English football since Sir Alex took over at Old Trafford on November 6, 1986. Take a moment and let that figure sink in.
What Sir Alex did at United will never be repeated. Forget the number of trophies he won or the fact that he knew the art of making good players into great ones better than anyone else, what United fans will miss most about him is just his mere presence.
It is difficult to describe the effect he had on an average United fan. People often wonder in amusement why watching a United game every week is so important for me. I tell them, is 90 minutes in a week where you completely forget about the daily drudgery of life and immerse yourself in something which genuinely makes you happy too much to ask? In those 90 minutes, Sir Alex was this great comforter, a man who you trusted to make everything alright. For any football fan, heartbreak and defeats are a part of the game. But what made it different for United fans was that the pain didn’t last long because Sir Alex was around.
One of his biggest strength was to rise in the face of adversity and that rubbed on to the fans as well. The bigger the challenge, the stronger he came back. The word impossible didn’t exist in his dictionary. Rival fans often say that United’s history of scoring late goals is down to luck, but the truth is it is anything but luck. You can be lucky once a year, twice or if lady luck is extremely pleased with you, then three times a year. United scored late goals because Sir Alex instilled the belief that no game was lost till the referee blew the final whistle.
He was once compared with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, some even thought that the Arsenal man was better, especially around 2002-04. Wenger is undoubtedly a very good manager but never had one thing which Sir Alex had: the strength to adapt. Sir Alex saw football evolve multiple times during his tenure and every time he adapted himself and his team to rise to the challenge. Football, and more importantly for him, Manchester United weren’t this big a phenomenon when he took over. They were a world-famous club but not this juggernaut of a club they’ve become. There weren’t too many foreign players, not many clubs were owned by sheikhs and oligarchs and football certainly didn’t have this big an audience. The most remarkable thing about Sir Alex was that he always managed to adapt and mould his team to the required question. Whatever the question, Sir Alex was the answer.
Between 2004-06, Chelsea under Jose Mourinho threatened to monopolise the English Premier League, Sir Alex was patient and had faith in players like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo to mature into world beaters. United won three consecutive titles and a Champions League in the next three years. Last year after narrowly missing out the title against Manchester City, there was talk about a power shift in Manchester and that City would upstage United. Sir Alex nipped this talk in the bud and won United’s 20th title with six games to spare. Managers are hailed geniuses for creating one winning team, like Wenger did with Arsenal in 2004. But Sir Alex created team after team and delivered results.
Like an old grandfather does it with his grand children, he has really spoilt United fans. I am not sure how many fans actually realize what a privilege it has been to watch United dominate during his reign. The last 27 years – 17 for me personally – suddenly feel like a long, dreamy ride. And what a ride it has been. One of the banners in Old Trafford’s Stretford End embodies his tenure as Manchester United manager: “The Impossible Dream – Made Possible”
The English media are notorious to hype their football players – especially teenage prodigies. Anyone with a fair amount of talent scores a wonder goal in his teens is often hyped up as the “next big thing”. Some live up to the hype and make a good career out of it while others just fizzle out. And then there was Michael Owen.
Owen, who announced his retirement from international football yesterday, was a player worth getting all the hype that came his way. The Boy Wonder, they called him and he truly was. The Boy Who Shook The World were the headlines when he scored THAT goal against Argentina. He was one of those players – and many Liverpool fans would admit – who made you follow football or a particular club, he really was that good.
Owen burst on to the scene in 1998 at St Etienne during the World Cup. A year before, he had made his debut for Liverpool and was talked about as a future star. But on that night when England were playing fierce rivals Argentina, the 18-year-old who scored one of the finest goals in World Cup history.
There was no looking back from that moment on. Owen continued to score goals for Liverpool and help them win trophies and also won Ballon D’Or or the European footballer of the year in 2001. He scored two in the FA Cup final in 2001 against Arsenal to dramatically win the trophy for his club. He scored a memorable hat-trick in England’s mauling of Germany in a World Cup qualifier.
Owen had the knack of making the most difficult thing in football – putting ball in the back of the net – look ridiculously easy. Some people are born to write, some are born to act, some destined to sing, while there are very few who are born to score goals. It’s a cliché used for footballers but it holds true for Owen, he was born to score goals.
After seven years at Liverpool, Owen moved to Real Madrid for a fee of 8 million pounds. This was the “Galacticos” era at Madrid – Raul, Ronaldo, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo were the illustrious names in that team. Owen, till that point, could genuinely stake a claim for being an equal in that elite group of football players. But unlike those great players, Owen often doesn’t get the acclaim he deserves.
Injuries, mainly after2005, the year when he moved to Newcastle United from Real Madrid took a toll on his career. Newcastle fans never took a liking to him as they thought he was a waste of money, a perma-crock who sat on the bench or sidelines and picked up a hefty pay packet. After four forgettable years blighted by injury, Owen moved on a free transfer to Manchester United. That transfer burnt all the bridges he had with Liverpool, the fans called him a traitor, Judas for wearing the red of Manchester after being revered in the red of Liverpool.
Owen at the point had a chance to go to Hull City, a club which got relegated after just one year in the Premier League, or join Manchester United. Liverpool allegiances aside, it actually was a no-brainer. But he received a torrent of abuse on Twitter, became the butt of all jokes because of his injuries. The move to United didn’t turn out be a great one – although he scored a memorable goal in the Manchester derby and scored in the league Cup final – and Owen was a bit-part player, when he was fit.
Injuries ruined Owen and it’s a pity because Owen shouldn’t be remembered as someone who was injured more often than not. It doesn’t do justice to someone of Owen’s ilk. He will go down as one of the best strikers of his generation.
In his day, Michael Owen was a delight to watch, a goal scorer who terrorized defences all over the world. The ending might have not been what Owen would have thought it would be like but Owen’s story is what most young footballers dream of – play for the biggest clubs in the world and score goals for which people will always remember you for.
Sometime last week when Real Madrid announced that their president Fiorentino Perez will hold a press conference – football fans on Twitter, message boards and forums were abuzz that Jose Mourinho was going to get the sack. The lead up to the press conference was dramatic as well. Spain’s leading newspaper and Real Madrid’s mouthpiece, Marca had carried a story that top Real players like Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas had given an ultimatum that it will be either them or Mourinho at the club. Perez took the microphone and to the disappointment of many said that all these reports are false and there’s no mutiny in Madrid. In six months, what was termed as a match made in heaven has turned into a match made in hell.
Hindsight is wonderful but it was clear from the very beginning that it was going to be an uphill task for Mourinho at Madrid. He got rid of club legend and crowd favourite Raul in his first season as manager. He rubbed the Santiago Bernabeu faithful the wrong way and it wasn’t an auspicious start for him. Jorge Valdano, director of football, Real Madrid was shown the door in the second season as he and Mourinho didn’t see eye to eye with each other.
Real Madrid are one of the biggest – if not the biggest – club in the world. And it’s a club which functions unlike any other club. While all clubs want to be liked, Real Madrid want to be revered by one and all – apart from Barcelona fans obviously. They not only want to win, they want to win it by playing beautiful football. In the eyes of their management, Real Madrid should be the darlings of world football, they want a good image, a club where everything works perfectly.
Jose Mourinho is the antithesis of Real Madrid. He has a devil may care attitude and knows just one thing – winning. And he is pretty damn good at it. He loves to build a siege mentality within the club – either you’re with us or you’re against us. Real Madrid wants everyone to be with them. The other thing with Mourinho is that at every club he has been with, players have been in love with him. They can’t hear a word against him and speak fondly of him even when he has left their club. Marco Materazzi famously sobbed in front of cameras and gave Mourinho a hug when his manager left Inter Milan for Madrid. John Terry tried to speak to the club officials at Chelsea to prevent Mourinho from leaving, Didier Drogba admitted he shed more than a few tears when Mourinho left.
At Madrid, he has been at war with Ramos and Casillas. He even committed a “sin” by dropping the club captain Casillas to the bench. He has been confrontational with players, officials and the media. He has been booed relentlessly by the Madrid fans at the Bernabeu. In fact, before one match, Mourinho came and sat in the dugout 40 minutes before kick-off so that the fans could have their fill of booing and concentrated on supporting the team during a match.
Mourinho’s philosophy is simple: as long as he is winning you football matches – shut up and put up with him. But the 2013 season so far has been anything but rosy for him and Madrid. More than halfway in the season, Real Madrid lie 15 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona. If that wasn’t enough, to rub salt in their wounds, local rivals and Real’s not-so-famous city cousins, Atletico Madrid are second and seven points ahead of them. It’s clear that Real Madrid won’t win the league this season, unless there is a collapse of epic proportions by Barcelona.
When I said that Real Madrid are a club which are different from others, there was another reason. At any other club, winning the league would amount to a successful season. But at Real Madrid, it’s never enough, they want the biggest prize in Europe: the Champions League (CL). As nine-time record winners, Madrid see it as their stomping ground. It has been nine years since they last won the CL and Perez when he got Mourinho on board in 2010-11 that he wanted the CL above anything else. Mourinho too made it clear that one of his ambitions was to become the first manager to win the CL with three different clubs. He already has two – one with Porto in 2004 and the other with Inter in 2010.
Mourinho is a modern-day great, a football manager who collects trophies for fun. He knows that even if he wins the CL with Madrid, he will leave at the end of the season. He would love to show the middle finger in form of the CL trophy to the Madrid fans, media and the management. Will the Madrid-Mourinho story provide one more episode of drama? We will see in two weeks time when Madrid take on Manchester United. I won’t be surprised if Jose Mourinho isn’t the manager of Real Madrid on March 6, if Real Madrid lose to United. Win or lose, Mourinho will always be seen as a villain by a majority of Real Madrid fans.It always was a match made in hell.
It’s hard to argue against the notion that Lionel Messi is perhaps the best football player of all time. He actually scores more goals in a year than an entire team put together. Case in point: Liverpool Football Club. Messi has scored 90 goals in 2012, Liverpool 88 – and they fielded 38 players in all competitions.
He not only scores more goals than anyone else, he also scores them in doubles and trebles. So far in the 2013 La Liga season, he hasn’t scored a single goal in any game – only twos and threes. He also has an insane number of assists against his name – well at least Liverpool beat Messi in this aspect. He is already the number one goal scorer for Barcelona – a club where illustrious names like Ronaldo, Romario, Maradona, Rivaldo all plied their trade.
Yet there are people who have tried to argue that Messi isn’t all that great till he wins a World Cup, till he takes a struggling side like Napoli to a league title. At this point, I would like to confess that even I was one of them (not any more though). After all Diego Maradona — his only true rival to the greatest of all time throne – played in an inferior team. Messi has Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol to name a few, as teammates and these are players who form the nucleus of not only one of the best club teams of all time but also of one of the best international teams. Spain have been tremendous over the last few years and Messi’s teammates have been at the forefront of their success. Maradona didn’t have this luxury. But this needs to be put in a bit of perspective.
No doubt what Maradona achieved with Napoli was phenomenal. With Maradona spearheading them, Napoli won two league titles, one UEFA Cup and two domestic cups in a seven-year spell. Now Napoli weren’t a great team by any standard but neither were they awful as often as it is portrayed. Of course, Maradona transformed them and was the man for them but they weren’t that bad before him and after him. In 1980-81 they finished 3rd, in 81-82 they finished 4th. They had two poor seasons after that where they finished 9th and 12th but they weren’t as bad as people assume. In 91-92, the year Maradona left them Napoli finished 4th, in 93-94 and 94-95 they finished 5th and 6th. So yes, Maradona was critical to their success and almo
Then there’s the argument of not doing anything worthwhile with his national team, Argentina. Messi is a different player with Argentina, Maradona was Argentina. Maradona won the World Cup in 1986 and fans still remember it as Maradona’s World Cup, like 1958 was Pele’s World Cup. Messi has had one opportunity in 2010 but failed to deliver. Maradona was 26 when he won the World Cup in 1986, Messi will be 26 in 2014 when the next World Cup in Brazil takes place. So there’s time for him to rectify that.
Fans will always find an argument or two to debate whether Messi is better or Maradona. If Messi continues to play like he has done in the last five years, the voices against him will slowly and slowly fade away in distance. Even if he calls it a day tomorrow, he will be among the top three football players of all-time. If he wins the World Cup in 2014 or perhaps even after that, then there will be no debate.
Sorry Diego, you will have to vacate your throne of the greatest player of all time, as it is you’re being pushed off it almost every single week. Goal after goal, assist after assist, your successor has all but claimed your crown.
I read this random comment — from who I don’t remember — but it certainly struck a chord. It went like this: “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.” I often find people reminiscing about the past and saying “those were the days”, more so in the case of their school days. You can take a random dip stick poll and you will find people saying that school days were the best. “Oh man, those were the days.” “Best days of my life” are some comments which you often see on Facebook when someone uploads a random picture of your school or starts talking about school.
Human beings do have this tendency of glossing over the past and view things from rose-tinted glasses. Take the case of music. Anyone in their late 20s or early 30s would go gaga over Guns’n’Roses, Metallica and say that contemporary music is nothing compared to the good old days. The same can be said about movies to a certain extent as well. Though we can safely say that any such notions will never be applicable to the 1980s Bollywood films because a chunk of them were downright atrocious. However, in the case of school days, almost everyone is in agreement that — to use Bryan Adams’ most karaoked line — “those were the best days of my life.”
Perhaps I am an exception because honestly I couldn’t wait to get out of school. No I didn’t have any traumatic experience in school which scarred me for life, neither was I bullied by the big boys who ate my lunch. I had a “normal” school life and for majority of the years I went to an all-boys school which did have its fair share of memorable and fun experiences. Even today when I meet my old school friends we do have a hearty laugh about some of the silly things we did.
But when I look back on those days on the whole, I honestly think that was it actually that good as people claim it to be? Or is it just getting swept in a wave of nostalgia and remember only the good things? Almost every day back then was a literal struggle. There was this getting up early every single morning, the stress of exams, the homework, the PT uniform, the sports day rehearsals, the unit tests, the term exams which made your life – at least it made mine — miserable.
Perhaps people who were exceptionally good at studies enjoyed school more than I ever did. They didn’t have to deal with the struggle of scoring two extra marks so that in the “aggregate” score they could pass. They perhaps did not shed bucket loads of sweat every time the teacher entered with the dreaded answer sheets to tell you much you scored. Or perhaps their struggles were different. They just had to top the class or it was the end of the world.
Then there was the humiliation which came along of being an average student, students whose parents were made to attend parent-teacher meetings “without fail.” How you were told that if you couldn’t write an essay on “Science: Boon or Bane?” or couldn’t tell a chemical formula, you were a good for nothing fellow. Life was doomed if you didn’t know your Sine, Cosine and Tangent and couldn’t separate sulphur dioxide from sulphuric acid.
I look at my cousin brothers and sisters who are in school and can’t help but feel for them and their daily struggle with the tremendous amount of pressure they face in school. Not that the stress subsides when you get out of school as you have to deal with all other kinds of pressure as you grow up. But at least it is not dripping with nostalgia and doesn’t involve saying “those were the days” when they certainly weren’t. Sometimes nostalgia is like a grammar lesson; you find the present tense but past perfect.
The country might not come to a standstill – like it does when a crucial cricket match is being played – when an Olympian is participating in any event. But if any athlete does win a medal, the euphoria is perhaps on the same level as it is with a cricket match. When Gagan Narang won the bronze medal in 10m rifle shooting at London Olympics, users on social media went overboard with tweets and Facebook updates. Would they have done the same if he had won the world championships or broken a world record – which in the past he has done – in shooting? Perhaps not. We would read it in the newspaper the next day and think “all this is good but will he win a medal at the Olympics?”
That’s where the Olympics are different from any other sporting event in the world. For athletes it is the pinnacle, their Everest, their final frontier. They might win world championships – like Mary Kom has five of them – and win medals at other international events, it’s never the same as winning a medal at the Olympics. We might be harsh in judging the athletes just on the basis of their performance at the Olympics as after all winning a world championship in any sport is indeed a big deal. The level of competition is always the same, in some cases it might be even tougher than that at the Olympics. Then why don’t we give as much importance to a world championship in shooting or boxing?
A friend of mine argued me at length about how the Olympics are perhaps “marketed” far better than any of these events. To be fair it is true, most of the times majority of the people aren’t aware of other international events in sports like wrestling or badminton or boxing. But when it’s Olympics there is this great hype – rightly so in my opinion – that we all are taken by it and want our athletes to win.
I believe it is time that we start paying more attention to the achievements of our athletes in other international events. Once every four years it is nice to support them, watch them or cheer them on at the Olympics. But their dedication to the sport and their achievements need to be lauded every time they do well at the international level. Don’t give them monetary rewards like we do when they win an Olympic medal but it would be nice to at least recognize it on a bigger scale – in the terms of watching the event and supporting them. The Olympics just because of its great history and romance are the Holy Grail for the athletes. For the sake of our athletes, let’s look beyond the Olympics and as spectators not make it our Holy Grail.
There has been a sense of disappointment among many football fans watching Spain reach the final of the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. A team which can – if it wins the final on Sunday – lay a genuine claim to the title of greatest football team of all time leaving fans disappointed. Something doesn’t seem right about it. The biggest grouse with Spain it seems is that they are “boring” to watch. Or perhaps calling them boring is a bit harsh but most of the fans find them a bit unexciting to watch. It’s like watching a cat attack a mouse. Hypnotic but unattractive.
It’s not entertaining enough like the way Germany have entertained in Poland and Ukraine or Brazil are known to entrance people with their flamboyant football . The fact that Spain have suddenly stopped playing with a traditional striker adds weight to that argument. Fans love strikers or players who can entertain and score goals. Marco Van Basten, Ronaldo, Roberto Baggio, Thierry Henry are the ones whose posters adorn the walls not the Xavis or the Cannavaros. And with majority of Spanish players coming from Real Madrid and Barcelona, two teams known to play with flair, people expect Spain to replicate that. But Barcelona have Lionel Messi and Real Madrid have Cristiano Ronaldo. Two players who have the ability to do the extraordinary at any moment in a football match. Spain don’t, in fact, no other team in the world have that luxury.
I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Spain – even though I can see where the boring tag comes from. They pass the ball beautifully, control the game and make the opposition sweat. They are in love with the football and aren’t afraid of it like the English players seemed to be. They are patient enough to choke teams with their passing and then in a split second, just like a cobra, they attack with venom. Just watching Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta dictate the terms, make the ball obey every command of theirs is enough for me to not get bored.
Opposition teams are more often than not are afraid to attack them and put ten men behind the ball. When you play against Spain, you know that you won’t be seeing much of the ball and teams are content to sit back and invite them to attack. Great teams not only know how to keep possession of the ball but also master the art of passing it perfectly and Spain do both of these things to perfection. They keep moving the ball and will keep at it until they find an opening It’s not pleasing to the eye at times and certainly won’t fascinate part-time football fans but no can deny it’s extremely effective.
Most neutral or part-time fans love watching end-to-end football and that happens when both teams end up making mistakes. The way Spain control a game means that majority of the game happens in the opposition’s half, so the chances of end-to-end stuff football are zilch. They might lack the swagger of champion teams but they have the skill, craft and the ability to make the simplest thing in football look beautiful – passing the ball.
Sometime in October 2011, in an English Premier League match against Queens Park Rangers (QPR), Chelsea and then England captain John Terry was accused of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Racism has always existed in football and perhaps will keep on rearing its ugly head from time to time. Such cases are common in Spain, Italy and other European leagues as well. But the matter is swiftly dealt with and punishment is meted out to the guilty party.
However the Terry-Ferdinand case has been handled differently and has had severe repercussions. Not for John Terry. Not for Anton Ferdinand either but his brother Rio Ferdinand. Terry and Rio are team-mates in the England squad and with the possibility of them playing Euro 2012 together leading to division in the team, England manager Roy Hodgson opted to keep Rio out of the team citing “football reasons.”
One can say that with Terry — an integral part of the Chelsea team which won the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup — had a better season than Rio. Hogdson said that the racism issue never came to his mind when selecting the squad and it was because of “footballing reasons” he left Rio out. Hodgson made it cler that this was a case of choosing Terry or Rio not Terry AND Rio.
On Sunday, England centre back Gary Cahill fractured his jaw and a replacement had to be summoned. If it were footballing reasons alone, surely Rio should have been called up. But what does Hodgson do? He calls the uncapped Martin Kelly. Instead of calling Ferdinand, a player with 443 Premier League appearances, who has played in three World Cups, Hodgson has gone for a 22-year-old with just 22 league starts. Now has Kelly had a better season than Rio? Perhaps Kelly had a great Christmas and got better presents than Rio but in the football sense, a blind man could tell you who had a better season.
What’s bizarre in this whole saga is that Rio doesn’t have anything to do with the case. Terry, who is scheduled to be in court in July to answer the racism allegations gets to represent his country while Rio doesn’t. It should have been Terry cooling his heels back home and Rio should have been out there on the pitch.
Still one can argue for football harmony that Rio should just not be picked. Or if we go one step ahead and say that in Hodgson’s defence he doesn’t want to pick up players on the wrong side of 30s (Ferdinand is 33) and he wants to blood youngsters. But what about Micah Richards? How Kelly gets ahead of Richards, who played a significant role in his club Manchester City’s maiden Premier League title? Hodgson made a mistake in picking Terry ahead of Rio and now injuries have dealt him a hand where he is forced to cover up his mistake by committing more mistakes.
It’s appalling that Rio Ferdinand is being punished for Terry racially abusing his brother. A team should pick its best players, England and Hodgson unfortunately haven’t done that. And that too for a man who is allegedly facing racism charges.
You don’t have to be a genius to acknowledge that Jose Mourinho is a fantastic football manager. A man who often divides opinions — loved by some, absolutely detested by others — Mourinho rarely stays out of headlines. His detractors say that he needs money to win trophies and that he doesn’t behave in a dignified manner. There is a case for both those arguments. He did spend a lot of money at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He has been at the centre of many controversies in his caree. He has criticized refs, gouged a rival manager’s assistant in the eye, comes across as extremely arrogant: in short done a lot of things to become a hate figure. But there’s one thing which he does better than most: win football matches and ensure that his teams win trophies.
Mourinho has had a glittering managerial career so far. Wherever he has gone, he has won trophies — 18 trophies in 12 years prove that. Despite those trophies, it is this season which will make or break Mourinho’s legacy. Beating Barcelona FC – arguably one of the greatest team of all time – in the La Liga with Real Madrid or a possibility of toppling them in the Champions League will lay all doubts of Mourinho being an all-time great to rest.
Not that if he loses either of the trophies, Mourinho’s star will wane. He will still be the most sought-after manager in the world. Frankly speaking, there’s no shame in losing to a great team like Barcelona who have the likes of Leo Messi, Xavi and Iniesta in their ranks. But Mourinho is fiercely competitive and ambitious and for him coming second even to Barcelona in successive years will be a failure. He had stated early in his career that he wanted to win the league title in Europe’s three prestigious leagues – England, Spain and Italy. England and Italy have been conquered and now he is almost within touching distance in Spain as well.
Real Madrid under Mourinho have been an unstoppable machine. They might lack the fluidity and eloquence which is the hallmark of Barcelona but in an industry which is result-oriented, Mourinho’s Madrid have been streets ahead of most teams in Europe. They score goals for fun (107 in the league alone), have an excellent defensive record (second best in Spain) and almost never get beaten (twice, including one loss against Barcelona).
In a season where almost everyone had written them off and made Barcelona favourites for every competition, it has been a stellar performance by Real Madrid to stay ahead of them. A possible eight games – five in the league and a probable three in Champions League — stand between Mourinho and immortality. To win league titles in England, Italy and Spain along with the chance of becoming the only coach to win the Champions League with three different clubs will be an extraordinary achievement. But to beat Barcelona along the way and achieve this will be a real special one.
With Indian cricket taking a battering – both on and off the field – from almost all sections of media, fans and experts, the fifth edition of Indian Premier League would definitely be interesting. Will the fans turn up to watch the matches? Will the media interest dwindle? Will the blame for everything wrong with Indian cricket be put on IPL’s shoulders? The answer to all these questions is a resounding NO.
After Lalit Modi’s ouster from all things related to cricket, it was assumed that the cricketing tamasha called IPL would become less flamboyant and the focus will be on the sport more rather than the spectacle. But do we actually believe that will be the case? I don’t think so. The BCCI has made it very clear that they won’t have any “official” night parties, however the teams can organise these parties (how very convenient). After all in IPL cricket is serious business, isn’t it?
On the face of it, as far as the IPL is concerned things do seem to be a bit dull till now. The player auction wasn’t a hyped affair as it has been in the past. Although I still find it hard to believe someone actually paid that much money for Ravindra Jadeja! The promotions from teams and various sponsors have been muted so far. Marketers and advertisers aren’t too gung-ho about anything cricket these days, so it is kind of expected. The TV ratings have fallen sharply, companies have been reconsidering cricketers as their brand ambassadors and this doesn’t seem the right time to be talking about the IPL.
But for me, this all seems to be a lull before the actual storm hits our TV screens. The IPL will be what it has always been – a money making spectacle. Already there are plans to have celebrities bowl a “super over”. So you might have the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and other big names to be a part of the IPL in some form or the other. We can expect Shahrukh Khan to go all the way to ensure that he is on our screens every hour when the IPL is on. Vijay Mallya too might get some respite from the mess his airlines has landed into – at least temporarily. Bollywood actresses will become die-hard cricket fans and will be seen cheering many franchisees.
The fans might be disillusioned right now with the fortunes of the cricket team but their memories are more or less short. The serious ones will stay away from IPL saying “this is not cricket” while others will treat it for what it actually is – a time pass. It won’t matter too much who actually wins or loses as long as they are guaranteed some entertainment which they will certainly find.
So if you were thinking that perhaps the last few disastrous months Indian cricket has been through might have some adverse effect on the IPL tamasha, then I am afraid you were hoping were too much. Like it or not, the IPL is here to stay.