It’s that time of the year when hype is the only stock-in-trade

Published in the Mirror Click here

After 130 days of cricket in the 270 days since last IPL, it’s finally back to real cricket for India. ‘Yeh IPL hai boss,’ the voice on TV says, followed by a collective groan from all corners of the country.

Much like the car behind you hell bent on honking the life out of you, the gala opening ceremony in Chennai is designed to make so much noise that the country will have no choice but to take notice. Salman Khan has been brought in just so people watch Shahrukh Khan for the next 50 days. Big B is lending the perception of bigness. And there’s the customary foreign artist.

If this is the evidence to go by, this season of IPL will be no different from the previous one. Except that this time we will be denied even the sight of Romesh Powar dressed in orange and purple.

Fan is king
After four seasons of subjecting their audience to shameless advertising plugs, a series of clownish anchors, commentators exhibiting signs of serious midlife crises, and generally mediocre cricket, IPL stakeholders are finally waking up to the needs of the fan. Going into this season, every team finally has a fan program in place.

Deccan Chargers is first off the blocks. Their recently launched fan blogs are of such high quality that opinion is divided on who is writing them – Ishant Sharma or Saeed Ajmal?

Ishant Sharma - Writer par excellence

Sample this. We used to call, the 30+ players of Indian Cricket “Boys”, who in fact were not. But the scenario has changed from “old-boys” to “Young-Boys”. Today team India has only “Young-Boys”.

Now, who’d watch IPL when writing as entertaining as this is available freely on the net?

Kings XI Punjab has tied up with Indraprastha All India Sports Foundation to come up with a cricket-reality show. After all, with a name like Indraprastha All India Sports Foundation, you are bound to be the best in the reality-show business. In the show, budding cricketers can showcase their talent to millions of viewers by dancing with Piyush Chawla and playing cricket with Preity Zinta.

Viewers will be allowed to vote as soon as they figure out where the show is being aired.

Kolkata Knight Riders has already unveiled its ‘New Dawn New Knights’ campaign, which is resonating strongly with their fans.

Owner Shahrukh Khan, though, is upset with typos in the new tagline. Apparently, the version that Khan had communicated on the phone was ‘New Don. New Nights. Ask Shirish Kunder’.

With the excuse of ‘Not enough space on the website Sir’ not cutting ice, the management is trying to come up with a believable explanation for why the third part of the line was omitted.

Royal Challengers Bangalore has formed a ‘fan advisory board’ to co-ordinate various activities of the RCB Fan Club. The Board consists of 20 “die-hard” fan-members who will facilitate all activities.

This management style worked so well with Kingfisher Airlines. Exactly the same results can be expected for RCB too.

The Dilshan effect

Dilshan - Not exactly Tom Cruise

Bollywood starlet Nupur Mehta, allegedly the Matahari of match fixing, is milking her new found fame for all it’s worth. She claims that she was seeing Sri Lankan cricketer Tillakaratne Dilshan around the 2009 T20 world cup. Though, how anyone can see Dilshan for more than three minutes at a stretch is hard to fathom.

“England is ashamed that it could not perform well in the World Cup,” Nupur said explaining why The Sunday Times has dragged her name into the match fixing controversy.

Dating Dilshan can surely lead to an exalted perception of self-worth and delusional grandeur.

You can hear the Fake IPL Player’s live commentary during match hours on www.pitchinvasion.in

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