The IPL Fix: Cricket killed the TV stars
IPL has offered a chance for a large population of TV consumers to move beyond the Sushant Singh Rajput – Rhea Chakraborty – Kangana Ranaut news cycle that had been shoved in their faces by a rabid group of media anchors masquerading as journalists.
At 12:01 am on 1 August 1981, a music video was aired on a TV channel. No, the Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star" wasn't released that day and it wasn't the song's first premiere. But it had a greater significance that day. And as the song title suggested, it was supposed to mark the beginning of the video era and how TV would take over the music industry from the radio. The first music video ever to be shown on MTV in the US. A cultural landmark that will forever be mentioned in quiz competitions and reading circles.
For the first time in years, looking forward to the IPL. Hope the tournament is a huge success with maximum viewership of all time. And really hope that this hits agenda driven news anchors and celebrities hard.— Aakriti (@Aakriti1) September 19, 2020
Strictly from a cultural point of view, Saturday’s opening match of the Indian Premier League (IPL), doesn’t have the same significance. Perhaps none at all. But as consumers of Indian media will vouch for, in IPL lay an opportunity. A chance for a large population of TV consumers to move beyond the Sushant Singh Rajput – Rhea Chakraborty – Kangana Ranaut news cycle that had been shoved in their faces by a rabid group of media anchors masquerading as journalists..
Opening match of #Dream11IPL sets a new record!— Jay Shah (@JayShah) September 22, 2020
As per BARC, an unprecedented 20crore people tuned in to watch the match. Highest ever opening day viewership for any sporting league in any country- no league has ever opened as big as this. @IPL @SGanguly99 @UShanx @DisneyPlusHS
And judging by the numbers – 20 crore people tuned in to watch the season opener of IPL – it would seem people are happy to shift their focus to cricket during primetime. Not that the TRP hungry TV news industry is going to be demoralised by cricket taking a bite of their views. In fact, they already have brought a new twist in the soap opera, which mind you has long forgotten about justice for Sushant, with the Bollywood’s female actors being accused of taking drugs. And they will continue to focus on these seemingly trivial issues as the country's farmers stage massive protests and the economy keeps tumbling downwards. In a year of surprises at least the TV news has gone about doing its business as usual -- to keep people away from actual issues that plague the country.
And unfortunately, this is likely to remain the trajectory for the cash-stripped media dependent on political funding. But at least the IPL offers an option. And cricket, despite a very exclusionary past, has become the saviour for the country who are just tired of watching Rhea’s delivery boys and watchmen questioned.
Judging by the first five days of IPL, it looks very likely to remain a healthy distraction for the Indian audience. It might not have the addictive paparazzi element of a Bollywood witch-hunt but the IPL with some close finishes and big-hitting has certainly been a relief. Most matches have gone down till the last over while the Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Capitals was decided in a Super Over. With more international stars set to join, the quality will only rise in the coming days.
Not so surprisingly, fatigue has been the biggest challenge for players who have been out of cricket for a few months due to the pandemic. UAE’s heat and humidity haven’t helped the cause either with Mumbai Indians’ captain Rohit Sharma suggesting it will be very difficult for batsmen to last the entire innings.
Another interesting facet to the IPL has been the purchase and movement the fast bowlers have been getting. The likes Mohammed Shami and Kagiso Rabada excelled with their classic seam bowling while Jasprit Bumrah once again showed why he is the undisputed king of limited overs pace bowling with excellent spells in his outings.
With very few other sporting activities for Indians to follow, one can only expect the popularity to grow further in the coming days and challenge the TV news channels for the audience. But like the news, the IPL itself can be an unhealthy distraction for a country that is now the hotspot for the coronavirus pandemic.
Perhaps that is what appeals most about sport – the power to make you forget the reality. To offer one a great escape as the reality darkens. One can only hope amidst the TV news pandemic and the IPL frenzy, the real stories that matter do not get buried.
(Views belong to the author)