In exactly a day, India will encounter the favourite neighbor in a 20-over tussle at the Asia Cup. What’s rather surprising is the low volume of public enthusiasm, as if calmly awaiting the next Bollywood flop.
Although, most living generations will confess that this was one matter that deeply united Indians, the imminent slaying of the perennial foe. It was at one level credible surrogacy, as the ambitions of the battlefield could be replicated, video game-like, in a gladiatorial environment. Quite naturally, the losses were scaringly scathing, most remarkably the last delivery sixer by Javed Miandad in 1986, decimating our composure for a largish spell of time.
This time, however, the box office seems rather lukewarm, and at the onset of the festive season, folks seems elsewhere engaged on Sunday evening. Which incidentally is surely a reasonable factor, as after the covid lull of play, citizens are stepping out with relieved abandon, static TV time is clearly a punitive option. Recent data points on the mall and dine-in traffic confirm that the latest threats of the ill-tempered virus are being ignored with boisterous bravado.
Also, in terms of sheer variety, there is far too much happening in India today, and I do mean the political dramas that are unfolding daily across theaters of governance. New age candidates like scams, raids, defections, and debates are arresting our imagination with galloping gusto and the OTT invasion is rapidly occupying emotional territories across the citizenry. Thus, there is a clear and present overload of ‘entertainment’ in urban living, from sources old and new.
Which is exactly where the IPL comes to play as the prime accused for the diminishing passion in Indo-Pak cricketing conflicts, for time to come. For starters, it has curated a deluge of world-class content with today’s viewers seeing in a year more Cricket than we could imagine watching in a lifetime. And this is inarguably state-of-art stuff with India becoming the combination of the Italian and Spanish leagues in a Football context.
The other, slow-cooked but now ready-to-eat, dietary change is the culture of supporting city teams ( just like clubs) with intensity and passion. A very ‘Football’ like customer behaviour which has penetrated Indian Cricket, and this is a serious departure. Earlier, nobody was seriously passionate about state teams or local clubs, unless deeply involved, but now the IPL has led to an intense association with the loved franchise, the matches thankfully occurring with EPL sporadicity.
So, I must submit that the passion quotient has been transferred significantly from national agendas to club agendas and this affects even the fabled Indo-Pak blockbusters. Further fuelling this disinterest is the meaningless series of bilateral encounters, Zimbabwe and West Indies recently, boringly one-sided and viewers unfriendly due to quirky time zones. Another post-IPL twist is that even our greatest overseas competitors are now being primarily viewed from their IPL affiliations, so Glen Maxwell’s RCB uniform supersedes the predatory Baggy Greens. Yes, there will be serious interest in major competitive knockout tussles, World Cup et al, but that will simply be a temporary suspension of the IPL potency.
In this vastly changing universe, the Indo-Pak skirmish will soon be an embarrassing anachronism and quite frankly, successful India should not compete on any parameter with failed Pakistan, except securing political borders. We should be grateful to the IPL for elevating the quality of Consumable Cricket and such defunct rivalries, 75 years post-independence, qualify as lovable collateral damage.