NEW DELHI — For cricket-crazy Indians, the Indian Premier League (IPL) transformed the old, colonial-era gentleman’s game into 21st-century, swashbuckling entertainment — replete with bling, Bollywood, billionaires, pom-pom waving cheerleaders and scandalous after-parties.
The league squeezed the long, slow game to a relatively scant three hours, packed it with American-style energy and thumping music, and even brought in the Washington Redskins cheerleaders for a cameo appearance in 2008.
Nine Indian cities got teams owned by Bollywood superstars and billionaire businessmen and sporting American-style names: Delhi Daredevils, Pune Warriors, Kolkata Knight Riders. Analysts dubbed it “cricket on crack.” Fans loved it.
Now, this heady, cash-rich caldron of entertainment seems to be crumbling under its own weight.
In the past week, three scandals have rocked the Indian Premier League. A television sting operation showed cricketers agreeing to play sloppily for money; Bollywood superstar-cum-team-owner Shah Rukh Khan, got into a brawl with security guards at a stadium while allegedly drunk; and Australian player Luke Pomersbach was arrested Friday on charges of molesting an American woman at an after party in a five-star New Delhi hotel.
What was meant to be a grand makeover for cricket is now suffering an image crisis of its own. Kirti Azad, a former cricketer from the 1980s and now a lawmaker, says he will fast on Sunday to protest the harm IPL has done to the game.
“It is not IPL, it is a rave party. It is against Indian culture,” said Yashwant Sinha, another lawmaker. “If semi-naked girls will continue to dance after every four is scored, then this is what will happen.”
There is an English proverb to describe things not being right — “It’s not cricket.” The colonial correctness of the game seems to have come back to haunt India’s instant version.
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