• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
The beat of “We Will Rock You” shakes the South Bombay stadium as fans in devil horns and curly blue wigs hoot party horns for belly-baring blond cheerleaders on a platform flanked by flaming torches. Red, white, and green fireworks streak the 5 p.m. sky as a sportscaster draws out the chant: “MUMBAI... INDIANS!”
If it sounds like the Super Bowl has met Bollywood, then the Indian Premier League (IPL) has done its job. Just three seasons into its new faster-tempo and hypercommercialized brand of cricket, the multibillion-dollar venture has taken the imperial gentleman’s sport, where matches could last for five days, and souped it up into an appetizing three-hour after-work special.
This Tuesday match pits the Mumbai Indians against the Delhi Daredevils, team names created when the IPL began in 2008. (Others include the Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, and Rajasthan Royals.) As the packed stadium sporting the teams’ colors shows, the IPL built large fan bases as quickly as it did purist protesters, and controversy – the IPL chief Lalit Modi was suspended and charged with 22 counts of corruption in April.
“It’s definitely more exciting, because otherwise you have to fight a test match, which is quite ... boring,” says Altamash Shaikh, referring to the five-day match. His firm let 500 of their staff off early from work to watch the game in their matching lime-green company T-shirts.
“In India it doesn’t matter what profession you are. You are a cricket fan,” says the smiling banker, who then dashes to take a picture with friends in front of a Mumbai Indians poster.
There are women in breezy salwar kameez, security guards in khaki saris, even a passel of young girls in imitation Mumbai Indian cheerleader outfits. There are foreigners, packs of boys in IPL jerseys, and men in Muslim prayer caps. In this crowded city of extremes, it’s the most thoroughly mixed place this correspondent has seen.