WoT's Hot

The fear this year was that the tenth edition of the mega franchise would lose some of its luster because of several intervening factors. Nothing like this actually happened − demonetization was shrugged off, political uncertainties glossed over and the fear of gambling restrictions put aside. Because face it, more than anything else it is the little wager every night that keeps the franchise buzzing.

There had also been a fear among the cognoscenti that the disqualification of two glamor franchisees − Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings − and more importantly, the inclusion of two teams for two years each only − might sour the competitive spirit. But nothing like this in fact happened. After all, both the Gujarat Lions and the Pune Super Giants have a shelf-life of only two years apiece. What will happen to them next year (2018) is still pretty confused. But for the time being, the attitude of the players, franchisees and the huge viewing public is to live for the moment!

At a recent TV panel discussion, the subject came up of the collateral issues, both good and bad, related to the world's most popular T20 tournament. I was happy to dub it "IPL ke side effects" without any reference to the Rahul Bose creation!

The issue came up quite innocently as a sub-teenage kid living in an upmarket Delhi high-rise asked his parents whether summer holidays in school were intended to coincide with the IPL season. Before there could be a cogent answer, the kid piped up "then they should start the holidays on April 5. This exchange went viral on the social media and got people talking. It was difficult to explain to the younger generation that cricket normally (in civilized times) came to a standstill in the summer months on the sub-continent.

Who would have believed that 30,000 or 40,000 spectators would turn up in 35 to 40 degree heat and sit through three and a half hours of the match? Well they do, day after day all across this cricket-obsessed country! Ice cream and cold drinks purveyors have reported bumper sales, the IPL taking up plenty of time in their Board meetings.

Doctors report acceleration in heat-related illnesses. It does not really require any surveys to determine that. Because of the timing of the matches − late evening on weekdays and afternoon and evenings at weekends, happily there is no absenteeism at offices and factories. But the major problem, I gather is on the financial front. In my high rise residence I can frequently overhear conversations between parents and their wards about picking up tickets for matches at the Eden.

"But both Lalit and Arman are going. How can you conversely say tickets are expensive? And their fathers are not huge business men." Or the more persuasive will be telling their families," I mean it is only Rs. 1,500 per ticket. Will you break your son's heart for that paltry amount?!"

Conversely, aware of my association with the game, the guardians might come to me and protest and seek guidance. I told one neighbor to give my example and tell the kids how I don't go to Eden to watch matches. It didn't work. "He is an old man. How will he sit through the match? and in any case he has seen thousands of matches". So even that ruse does not work. The last throw is "You have to do your home-work. Your exams are near." It is a total waste of time. Prompt comes the reply," Pandya brothers get a crore each. How many exams have they passed. Or Lasith Malinga. Come on, don't be a spoilsport"

So you smile and pay up − cut your club bills or travel, or take a loan from the bank or some NBFC. And talking of travel, Any well-meaning travel agent will try to persuade you to take your leave, like now, when the IPL is in full swing. Frankly youngsters don't want to miss the action and will say that they would prefer to travel in the monsoon months. We know why! So the hotels are cheaper and tickets available. Any youth will tell you that you just can't watch cricket on holidays. "Is this what you came to Darjeeling for? We are going to Sandakphu and then having dinner with our friends in a Chowrashta hotel." So moral of the story, stay in Kolkata.

According to Kolkata folklore, marriages have broken up when the husband supports East Bengal and the wife Mohun Bagan. Here things go further. Apocryphal stories on social networks cite a recent case where a divorce-seeking wife told the judge that there cannot be worse cruelty than hubby parking himself in front of the TV every night to watch cricket! Of course, she felt free to have an affair!