I have a circle of friends who are die-hard test cricket lovers, and in today's times, this automatically means that you are required to loathe everything about the IPL, even if you don't.
Because of this, our experience of watching the IPL is eerily similar to that of watching that other great modern synthesis of physical athleticism, sex-appeal and entertainment - porn.
Why? All of us actually watch it, but alone and in private - we would never admit to it in public. It is hard to imagine watching it with a group of friends, over a few beers, frantically pointing at the screen and yelling "Come on! Come on!". Everybody loudly denounces it as a bane of modern society, a money-making exercise created by greedy charlatans to exploit the immature and stupid masses. It is available in HD channels and as live video streams on the Internet. It features actors and models who never quite made it big in mainstream cinema. The similarity is undeniable.
In fact, the only two people in my extended social circle who seem willing to watch IPL games with me are my neighbour Sankalesh Jimmy, and my maternal uncle, who will will simply refer to as Ambi Mama.
Watching the games with Ambi Mama can be fun, or not fun, depending on which side you take in the raging international debate over whether T.E.Srinivasan was a better opening bat than S.M.Gavaskar. In fact, Ambi Mama sincerely believes that the entire creation of the IPL is the outcome of a heated argument between Gavaskar and S.Venkataraghavan on the Madras Cricket Club lawns in 1981. My uncle is one of the thousands of residents of Mylapore and Triplicane who routinely blame Gavaskar for absolutely everything - from the decline of the Ranji Trophy to substandard pitches to the excessive tightness of Madan Lal's T-shirts. Just about everything is Sunny's fault. When young Unmukt Chand was bowled by Brett Lee off the first ball of this year's tournament, Ambi Mama slapped his own forehead rapidly thrice before bellowing "Ayyo! Ayyo! Ayyo! Pochu Po! Yellam indha Gavaskar thappa solli kuduthuruppaan! Badavaaskar!" (Translation : Shite! Shite! Shite! That's down the toilet! That rascal Gavaskar must have taught him the wrong techniques! Note - there is no reasonable translation for 'Badavaaskar'.)
He also believes that the third umpire should permanently be replaced by the late Swaroop Kishen, and insists on referring to Kieron Pollard as "Thyagu". He drives me nuts.
Unable to bear Ambi Mama's tam-brahm intensity, I decided that perhaps Sankalesh would be the better companion for a subsequent game.
Sankalesh is one of those guys who totally delights in the IPL . He loves every minute of it - primarily because he can then come up with some bizarre theory to explain even the most prosaic of events. The other day he claimed that Sachin Tendulkar had deliberately scored a duck in the game against CSK.
"Did you know that Mumbai Indians never lose when Sachin gets out for a duck? Which is why he selflessly sacrificed his wicket for a duck against Chennai and won the match for his team. Who says he isn't a matchwinner?", he said. "Other players can win matches by scoring hundreds or fifties, but only Sachin can consistently win matches by scoring ducks. What a great team man!"
Of course, I had to ask why, if this stratagem was clearly so effective, Tendulkar did not simply resort to it all the time. It did not faze him. "You think it is easy for Sachin to get out for a duck? It is in fact easier for him to score a fifty than get out for a duck. Look at the stats - he has scored 15 fifties in T20 but only five or six ducks. But each one of them has been a matchwinning one."
As you can see, it's been a stressful week of cricket watching. But it was not without its moments of delight. Chief among these was watching Jaspreet Bumrah, whose bowling action is surely one of modern cricket's great sights. He looks like one of the Autobots would if he, in the middle of transforming into a sports car , suddenly changed his mind and bowled some medium-pace instead. Three wickets despite that action! Or perhaps because of it. This is why I love the IPL - the larger viewing public may have never seen this kid otherwise.
P.S. - The keen observers among you may have noticed the departure from the Fake News format. I'm tired of that - so I may do it once in a while, but no reason not to do more generic stuff. I think.