A peculiarly Indian Premier League state of affairs prevailed in the country a few days ago, as the IT department, IRS, IB, ED, MoCA, and the rest of the alphabet went to work in right earnest. It was the day of the first semi-final. The structure propping it up might have been burning, but the IPL was strangely secure in its infallibility, the same unshakeable entitlement that members of the Indian elite walk about with.
In the SET Max studio, Shahid Kapoor laughed and promoted his film on the pre-match programme (a routine that no longer strikes viewers as odd). The news channels, hotly following the raids and investigations, abruptly switched to their sponsored game shows. Commentators we ought to be able to trust to bear a scrutinising gaze on the sport welcomed this because they felt people were being bombarded with far too much negativity and off-the-field news when the cricket was all that mattered.
They needn’t have worried, because the spectators didn’t really care about the controversies. If they had involved the Indian team rather than city franchises, there might have been public protests, stone-throwing at the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s office, the odd effigy burnt, some more disgust in everyday conversation.
But this was the IPL. And this was the real achievement of Lalit Modi and buddies. They had constructed a bubble in which rules didn’t matter, where commentators were incorporated into the PR machinery, and spectators, with an unquenchable appetite for glamour, thrown so much of it that they could take to the IPL the same suspension of disbelief they take to Bollywood films.
If everything about the IPL is particularly Indian, so is every aspect of the alleged corruption in it. Indians, especially those entertained, can therefore be sympathetic...