Written by Boria Majumdar in TOI today,
When South Africa played Australia for the lone T20 match of their bilateral series recently, it was intriguing to see a surfeit of banners all over the stadium welcoming the Indian Premier League (IPL) to South Africa. Knowing that the broadcast was being televised back to India, fans, who carried these banners, waved them vigorously every time the television cameras focused on them. The large South Asian diaspora in South Africa, it was evident, was getting ready to welcome this unique Indian innovation to their shores.
There’s little doubt that interest in matters Indian continues to grow as the country grows in significance. It is also a fact that old and North-South partnerships which frequently involved the exploitation of one or more of the parties concerned could not achieve results on the same scale as the new global partnerships based on fairness, equality and mutual respect, where all parties strive to meet the shared needs and ambitions of those involved. The IPL’s move to South Africa has the potential to be one such.
Much of the acrimony in global cricket over the years has been caused by the unfair nature of North-South partnerships. India, till the late 1980s, was considered a cricketing backwater by the developed West and subsequently, banking on their increased riches, the Indian administrators were determined to go one up over their erstwhile masters. Even when alliances were formed, they were unstable and potentially volatile. IPL 2009 has the potential to remedy these wrongs and bring benefits to global cricket fan and carry the torch of domestic Indian cricket to regions where currently there is no such tradition.
IPL 2009, an Indian resource reaching a global audience, will therefore result in wider recognition of India’s place and contribution to cricket history and heritage. Through its expanding reach, it is expected to increase understanding of Indian cricket, its evolving culture and heritage but also act to showcase the expertise and skill of domestic Indian cricketers, at the core of this unique Indian innovation.
This IPL, it is expected, will find strong support within a changing global sporting milieu where India is fast emerging as the new nerve centre of world cricket. Given the emerging space of India within the global cricketscape, IPL 2009, forced to move to South Africa, might well end up promoting Indian cricket in a way hardly ever done before. Followers of Indian cricket based outside the region, for the first time, will be spared the need to spend hours on the internet to follow the action back home.
Interestingly, a poll conducted a couple of years ago by Times Now on the attitudes of the Indian youth found that more than 50 per cent of the respondents, given a chance, would live in some other country. However, as some argue, they surreptitiously track the scorecard on their computers while at work when they are away from home. Now for the first time, these men and women will get an opportunity to support their erstwhile cities, creating a different brand of ‘global city loyalty’. That such loyalties remain intact and are never forgotten is evident from the various religious festivals celebrated with much fanfare by various Indian diasporas across the world.
The reaction of the global Indian, a contradiction of sorts in that he wants to escape the country yet embrace its best-known and perhaps only passion besides Bollywood, draws attention to two things. First, cricket is no longer a mere ‘national’ obsession. Modern Indian cricket is a post-colonial sport, which obsesses the cosmopolitan global Indian who transcends the geographical boundaries of the nation. IPL 2009 can only cement this development. At the same time it can be suggested that come March 2010, when the IPL will return to India once again, it is this global constituency, cultivated in 2009, that will help make the tournament a truly global Indian export, India’s only international sporting brand.
Finally, it is true that South Africa, having worked closely with the BCCI since 1991, since its return to the international sporting fold, is ideally placed to act as the global home for IPL II. Since 1991, there has been regular and constructive dialogue between the cricket establishments of these two countries, so much so that South Africa even agreed to India’s request of going against an ICC ruling during the Mike Denness controversy of 2001, when ICC match referee Denness showed the audacity of unfairly suspending six Indian cricketers on charges of ball tampering and over-appealing, the ICC was rendered powerless in the face of growing India-South Africa cooperation. Denness was brusquely ousted as match referee and a Test match played against the ICC’s wishes. If IPL 2009 is a success, chances are the ICC’s position will again turn somewhat vulnerable against the backdrop of a new kind of partnership between two independent cricket boards, which are both powerful members of the ICC executive board.
On April 18, 2008, the inaugural edition of the IPL had transformed the face of Indian cricket for all time to come. Come April 18, 2009, the inaugural match of the first global edition of IPL can do an encore for world cricket.