The IPL: What is your definition of a controversy?
The IPL is a phenomenal television event. It delivers professional cricket, Bollywood and sports entertainment in one exciting package. Be it the super sixes, the crack bowling, the beautiful cheerleaders, or the nail biting finishes, children and adults across the country relish the matches.
However, like the evolution of any Indian institution, the IPL has drawn the ire of a majority of the Indian media. They seem to have a tendency to either express the seemingly misplaced concerns of the nation's Conservatives and prehistoric cricket fraternity, or to simply spin incidents even remotely related to the IPL as 'controversies'.
But many times, these media elements grasp at straws in an attempt to manufacture a controversy. Ina recent issue of India Today, the feature article was titled, 'IPL: The Dirty Picture', and came with a timeline of 'controversies'. The first incident was Shah Rukh Khan's fight with a security guard at the Wankhede stadium. The magazine stated that he, not even allegedly, but actually "abused and manhandled officials and security". It's common knowledge by now that SRK simply had a heated argument with one security official. It's not even an over-exaggeration but a lie that he 'manhandled both officials and security'.
The second 'controversy' was on Priety Zinta. The magazine said, "She was left seething on April 18 after on field umpires upheld the dismissal of Punjab Kings IX's Shawn Marsh." India Today seems to have lost all understanding of what the term controversy entails. How can an expression of anger, which had no bearing on the outcome of a match, amount to a 'controversy'?
The strangest IPL 'controversy' described in the article was one concerning Ashwin Srinivasan, the son of BCCI chief N. Srinivasan. At the end of April he made an angry scene at a bar in Bandra that refused to serve him drinks after 1:30 am, which led him to spend a night in jail. How is this incident even remotely connected to the IPL? Is Ashwin Srinivasan a chief decision maker in the IPL? Do Srinivasan's actions reflect the moral code of IPL officials and players?
In my opinion, NO. In rational opinion, also NO. Yet, why is the incident called a controversy? The article is nothing more than an irresponsible expression of contempt from India Today towards the IPL. Moreover, it's not just the print media. Be it Arnab Goswami's one hour discussion investigating into SRK's scuffle with the security guard, or Headlines Today's Rahul Kanwal berating IPL architect Lalit Modi in crass Hindi on Aaj Tak, accusing him of introducing debauchery into Indian culture, a majority of media elements seem to be geared towards spinning controversy out of mundane events besides reporting them.
There is a simple explanation - cricket sells in all shapes and forms. Be it news or controversy, that's just a difference of opinion. However, any responsible news media title should be much more discerning. Beyond a point any sensible viewer and reader can look past the loose use of the term 'controversial' and doubt the credibility of the news media, which I believe is their most valuable asset. The ire of cricket veterans that the game has been perverted by the IPL is stale and should only be expressed to an extent. Cricket is whatever form of the game people enjoy. It may be gully cricket on the streets of Indian cities and villages, a 50 over match in a stadium, a test match or 20-20, the thrills of the game remain the same, and the people will continue to love it. Cricket does not have a static image. Just like any human institution, it changes. The IPL is an evolution of cricket for the 21st century, and adults and children have enjoyed the fresh experience in the stadiums as well as in their homes.
The Indian audience is not just consumers but also citizens. I understand the news media have commercial constraints, but even though all cricket news is entertaining, I doubt people will switch channels if they give viewers what they need besides what they want. Promoting dull narratives about the IPL and creating 'controversies' out of them while the nation enjoys the game will only put off audiences with the news. People will be all ears if that same media tenacity tells them of corruption or mismanagement in the IPL, which is much more in the public interest.
The news media should have more faith in the intellect of their audiences. Viewers understand the difference between the news and yellow journalism and must refrain from presenting them as one. To maintain their credibility they must not trivialize the news.
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More about Ayushman Jamwal
Ayushman Jamwal works on the foreign desk at CNN-IBN.
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