Stretching the drama

Stretching the drama

IPL I allayed all fears and was an unprecedented hit, throwing up a fairytale triumph for Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals and proving emphatically that the heady mix of cricket and entertainment would bring the fans back to the grounds in droves.

A combination of reasons largely centering around security necessitated IPL II to be moved out of India and to South Africa, where too it was an unqualified success. Tracks with a bit of juice in them even towards the end of the Protean domestic season ensured that IPL II wasn’t only about batsmen; there was juice off the park too, none more captivating than the Fake IPL Player (FIP).

It was the Deccan Chargers who turned the formbook on its head in IPL II. Table-proppers the previous season, the Chargers completed a remarkable turnaround by defeating Royal Challengers Bangalore, seventh in the first season, in a tense final in Johannesburg. But typically, it was a team of showmen that hogged the limelight, even if their on-field performances hardly merited writing home about.

Shah Rukh Khan is the ultimate showman, the darling of the masses with a fan-following running into millions. Sourav Ganguly is only slightly less of a showman, his legend having grown through the iron hand with which he ruled Indian cricket for more than half a decade. When these two go head to head, sparks are bound to fly; it was in the translation of these sparks into lightning that the aura of FIP grew.

The Kolkata Knight Riders had a horrendous run on the field during IPL II, but they were the most talked about team. Even before the competition began, Ganguly was dumped as skipper, coach John Buchanan espousing his much-ridiculed multiple-captain theory that fell flat on its face. In the end, Brendon McCullum was left holding the baby as the rest of the world looked on in amused consternation; indeed, if KKR had one consistent star during their disastrous campaign, it was FIP.

The Gamechangers, an almost inevitable by-product of the FIP drama, purports to be a work of fiction, and who is to say much of it isn’t, but there is no denying where the inspiration for this enjoyable read has come from. The IPL is referred to as the IBL — the Indian Bollywood League — and the author of the book has refrained from identifying himself, only going by the sobriquet The Fake IKnightL Player. Some of the facts are twisted around deliberately, but that in no way detracts from the readability of the book.

The blurring of lines so meticulously embraced by the anonymous author must be hailed as a masterstroke. The more you read it, the more you realise that the writer is at once intelligent and crafty; you can almost hear his chuckle as you turn page after page, knowing full well what to expect but finding it difficult nevertheless to put the book down.
The book, though, goes one step beyond the drama and tension created through his blogs by FIP. FIP’s popularity revolved around supplying unconfirmed ‘inside information’ during IPL II, his blog an overwhelming hit. Rattled by the reach and popularity of what was perceived to be a ‘reveal-all’ blog, the KKR management left no stone unturned in its bid to identify the ‘culprit’, with little success.

This book captures the essence of the blog, and adds its own little intrigue and mystery by infusing elements of romance and investigation into the entire episode. Most unflattering names coined by FIP — Bhooka Naan, Dildo, et al — have remained the same though team names are different because, remember, this is the IBL; certain key players too have been moved around to justifiably suit the needs of the writer.

The Gamechangers will not change your perception of the entertainment-awash IPL, and it will disappoint if you expect it to throw more light on the behind-the-scenes activities that people can hazard a guess about, but are seldom in a position to know for sure. Accept it for what it claims to be — a work of fiction — and go with the flow, and you will not be disappointed. By no stretch of the imagination is this a masterpiece without which your collection will contain a huge hole, but it you have some time to spare and are in the mood for entertainment, grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and read on.

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