April 2009
« Mar   May »

Lawrence Booth: Battle of Bollywood eclipsing IPL

April 22nd, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in IPL, South Africa

The struggle out here in South Africa was relentless even before the Indian Premier League got under way in Cape Town on Saturday. No quarter has been given, none asked for. No trick is too dirty, no ruse too cunning. The perma-smiles disguise a world of tension. Reputations are at stake. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Battle of Bollywood.

Last year the IPL made no attempt to pretend it wasn’t trading heavily for its publicity on the photogenic qualities of Shah Rukh Khan (owner of Kolkata Knight Riders) and Preity Zinta (co-owner of Kings XI Punjab). This year Shilpa Shetty has come on board (she seems to be cheering for Rajasthan Royals, but these associations are fairly fluid) and the battle has hotted up, even if the South African dailies have shown less inclination than their Indian counterparts in 2008 to plaster their front pages with smiley, happy (and rather rich) people. These are truly epoch-making times.

The stars moved into position early. Preity was interviewed during the mid-innings interval of the fourth ODI between South Africa and Australia as far in advance as nine days ago, when she showed alarming knowledge of her own team by extolling the virtues of Burt Cockley. Opposition franchises quaked. But Shah Rukh, the old dog, smoothness itself and – it must be said – possessing a very passable line in banter, wasn’t going to take that one lying down. Two days before the tournament began, he unveiled his new video, a song-and-dance combo he had dreamed up to convey the ferocity and competitiveness (and various other abstract nouns) of his Knight Riders.

Shetty was now playing catch-up, but when she gatecrashed the eve-of-IPL press conference in Cape Town, Preity and Shah Rukh had come along for the ride too! Lenses didn’t know which way to point. It was hard to blame them.

Cameramen are contractually obliged to zoom in on the Bollywood owners a pre-agreed number of times per match (this really is true), so once the cricket was under way it was simply a question of who could squeeze in more extra-curricular exposure. This has taken some ingenuity. Before the start of play yesterday at Durban, where the local Indian population had turned out in fairly healthy numbers despite the heaving skies, Preity seized the initiative by wandering around the boundary and hurling Kings XI-branded T-shirts into the adoring crowd.

But Shah Rukh and Shilpa hit back. The tannoy relieved itself of a blast of Shah Rukh’s catchy number while Shilpa, one-time star of Celebrity Big Brother, was charm personified during an interview with an English broadsheet journalist. Undeterred, Shah Rukh threw a lavish party for all concerned at a hotel on the Durban sea-front, where I can assure you the chicken tikka was out of this world. The man is not to be outdone.

The second IPL is still in its infancy. Mistakes will almost certainly be made. But if the opening skirmishes are anything to go by, the Zinta-Khan-Shetty showdown will run and run.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for The Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey

Posted in IPL, South Africa | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Lawrence Booth: Battle of Bollywood eclipsing IPL”

  1.   Ceci says:

    Most disappointed Lawrence - this was trailed by TWC as “Lawrence Booth does a Bollywood dance” - and are there pictures? Thank goodness for the IPL coverage on TV then - Jeremy Coney seen throwing some moves with the dancing girls…

  2.   Andrew Hughes says:

    There was a thunderous, angry edge to Day Five of the IPL. Perhaps it was the sight of an ominously dark Table Mountain wreathed in broiling orange clouds as the sun set behind Cape Town. Maybe it was the guttural roar from a nameless man in red as a lofted shot from Rohit Sharma landed yards from a Bangalore fielder. Or perhaps the percussive savagery of flashing willow on white leather as Gilchrist, Sharma and Dravid strained at the bonds with which so many batting Gullivers have been tied down by bowlers of Lilliputian reputation.

    Whatever it was, there seemed to be steam building up under this IPL at last. And the man stoking the boiler was the Pietermaritzburg Maestro himself. Kevin Pietersen was today not just captain of Bangalore but pumper-up-in-chief. He roared encouragement, he clapped his hands ferociously, he demanded snappier fielding from the dilatory Praveen Kumar and he generally strutted about the field as though he not only owned it, but everyone on it and their houses, their wives and girlfriends too. And it was no fitful or fair-weather performance. He was a constant pressuring force. None could rest.

    This was not the Pietersen who had been so eager to please last August; who had taken pains to try and win over the England dressing room, who had agreed to work with a coach he didn’t think was the right man. This was not the Pietersen who put out mixed messages about the Stanford debacle; who stood forlornly at mid-on as Yuvraj gave England an ass-whupping in India; who wanted Michael Vaughan back in the team to help him with the job he had accepted.

    Some thought that this restless, intense individual would chuck in captaincy altogether when it turned out to be something he couldn’t immediately excel at. They were wrong. For Bangalore and with the help of Ray Jennings, he has returned to it with renewed ferocity, with the ruthless determination he applies to perfecting his batting technique. And with every game, he improves. The moment when he jogged thirty yards to the stricken Karan Sharma to tell the youngster to keep his head up after dropping a catch, was pure, natural captaincy.

    But Mike Brearley himself could not have saved the Royal Challengers today. Adam Gilchrist deftly dismembered the Bangalore bowling with the brutal expertise of a butcher reducing a carcass. And then Rohit Sharma smeared the remains all over the Cape Town sky. I’d swear that for the biggest of his sixes off Jesse Ryder, the ball paused for a second at the peak of its steepling trajectory, as though the gods themselves had slowed its flight to wonder at what pure timing and trained muscle can do. Bangalore will not be the last to feel the Deccan Charge this IPL.


  3.   Andrew Hughes says:

    Day Six is where the IPL got down to business. The lacquer of hype had started to wear off; the cheerleaders had sorted out their routines and most of the players were onto their third set of clean pyjamas. This was a day not of warm-ups, ice-breaking and star-gazing, but real cricket; real tense cricket, as it turned out.

    A match has an existence beyond the activities of the players out on the pitch; it is a creation of the intellect and imagination of all those who witness it. To be truthful, many of the games thus far have been rather sickly creatures, fading out of existence long before the final ball.

    But the tussle between Chennai and Delhi was a more robust entity, a snarling, twisting tug of war in which neither side would budge. There was slack play here and there. There were dropped catches, fluffed stops and sloppy shots. The players, still moving through the gears, are yet to reach top speed. But bat didn’t smash into ball without reply and each wicket in turn was answered with a flurry of boundaries.

    A B De Villiers was the thread stitching the Delhi innings together. He, with his middle order associates, hauled the Daredevils off their knees after early knock-downs, but Dilshan and Karthik fashioned only amusing cameos, mere trinkets, compared to the elaborate masterpiece being created by the South African at the other end. And the creative process can be cruel, as Andrew Flintoff will attest.

    But Chennai’s chase began with rocket-like velocity and was sustained by Raina, Flintoff and Morkel. The yellow Chennai worm climbed above its blue cousin, then fell below it and in the end, viewers found themselves squinting at a tangle of graphical invertebrates, neither with the statistical strength to poke its pixelled head above the other. In the end, the engine began to splutter and Chennai ran out of gas, not for the first time this tournament.

    The second game was closer. Chasing under lights is supposed to be difficult and Kolkata duly made it so, wilting under Rajasthan’s trademark harrying. But dogged Ganguly, relisher of scraps, fought on. Every move by the grandmaster Warne of the white teeth was parried by the black-shirted Prince of Kolkata. Warne delayed whilst he directed traffic. Ganguly stalled by walking down the pitch to explain to Yashpal Singh the importance of not getting out. Traps were set; sprung; re-loaded with bait.

    Last ball of the sixteenth over. The required run rate is over ten. Munaf oversteps and Ganguly helps the reluctant ball to fulfil its destiny over square leg. A free hit. Munaf coughs up a wide half volley which is brutally persuaded deep over long off by Dada’s flailing chunk of willow. The required rate is now eight.

    But, drenched in sweat and dew, Warnie wasn’t done. He enticed Yashpal into a dash at glory and with the scent of victory incense invading his nostrils, the youngster fell short of the boundary and his senior partner’s expectations. Ganguly roared his anger, swinging his bat at the blameless ground, demolishing imaginary mole hills of disgust. But a few balls later, he was nicked off by Kamran Khan and, with a last ball dive, a fumble and a scramble, we had arrived at an agony-prolonging tie.

    In truth, the Super Over was not a complete success. A cardinal sin on occasions like these is to allow even one iota of tension to evaporate and the inordinate delays whilst bats were found, pads strapped on, rules explained and fields set, conspired to make the final over showdown a game-resolving formality rather than a crescendo of thrills. Gayle smashed big fours, but Pathan, down on one knee, heaved bigger sixes and Rajasthan had won, a reprise of their many glorious escapes of 2008. Shahrukh disappeared into the shadows, Shilpa Shetty looked incredulous and the tournament had truly begun.


Leave a Reply

Site by Anson Robson Marketing © 2010 The Wisden Cricketer All Rights Reserved