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A Change In Indian Cricket And Society

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Sociology has been defined by many pioneer thinkers, in the words of Max Weber, “Sociology is the science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action.” This definition briefly sums up what the following essay will be focusing on. The following essay will be focusing on the changes brought to cricket and how it revolutionized the sport, as well as Indian society. It will be focusing on what aspects helped IPL gain so much popularity in the Indian society. As a result it will help us in the “understanding of social action” of the contemporary Indian society.

There is a strong link between human society and sports. Sports can provide us a frame through which we can study certain aspects of social actions, conducted by the individuals of that particular society. The article written by Vidya S (2015) focuses on India’s most adored sport, cricket. It focuses on the Indian Premier League, which has changed the definition of cricket in society altogether. The sport used to initially help spread nationalism and patriotism towards one’s country, however, with the introduction of IPL, the Indian audience divided themselves into supporting different teams. This particularly modified version of the sport has created various debates and many are against this change in the sport. Many sociologists see it as, “Mass Deception” (Pathak, 2018). Avijit Pathak, who is a Sociology professor at JNU, New Delhi, is of the view that IPL is not cricket, but pure business. This goes in accordance with many other articles and opinions on the internet as well. But, many are also of the belief that IPL has helped India’s economy globally, which can help bring more changes in society (Pike and Coakley, 2009)

Since IPL’s “birth” in 2008, the cricketing industry saw a huge change in its culture. Lalit Modi managed to transform cricket from a sport to a business. He branded cricket, by bringing in a platform for TV channels, advertisements, fantasy leagues, publicity on social media etc (Subramanian, 2015). This as a result has helped cricket become a booming business and has attracted the Indian and global audience. Sociology of sports tends to focus on social conditions under which sports are organised and it also studies cultural contexts which influence the society’s level of interest in a particular sport and their level of participation (Pike and Coakley, 2009). Lalit Modi, the creator of IPL was very well aware of India’s social conditions and cultural context, thus he very smartly framed this franchise, which is today a business worth billions. Lalit Modi was aware of the fact that Indians live and breathe cricket. But he decided to make the sport more interesting by introducing a shorter format of the sport, as a result, people of all age groups were engaged in the tournament. Moreover, Modi was also aware that India has always been interested in drama, suspense and fast paced events. Thus he almost scripted the IPL to be exactly that. He admitted that he was pitching IPL against entertainment channels, which would show a Bollywood movie for 2-3 hours (Subramanian, 2015).

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Leahy, (2010) stated that, “Cricket is a national passion. Bollywood is a religion. If you can bring both of them together, it can’t get any bigger than that” (as cited in Raj and Sreekumar, 2016). Modi did exactly that. The modern society is majorly attracted by celebrities. We can see how individuals are hooked on page 3 articles, instagram, facebook, gossip shows etc. The society aspires to live a life similar to theirs. When it comes to the Indian society, the craze is a level higher. Indians are crazy over actors, actresses and business tycoons. Celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan are worshipped and receive a tsunami of love and attention. Thus, the entry of celebrities into the sport, made the sport glamorous and entertaining, as a result attracting majority of the Indian and global audience. In contemporary society, people are searching for any way to seek entertainment (Raj and Sreekumar, 2016). There are many aspects of the game along with its star power and gossip that has attracted more and more eyeballs. For example, instances such as Shahrukh’s argument and fight with the Wankhade security guard, which resulted in him getting banned from the ground for a period of 5 years. Cricket players are also no short of these stars, even their quarrels on the field add drama and excitement to the sport. For example, the quarrel between Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli on the field. All these arguments, fights, controversies etc, on and off the field, add to the excitement and drama IPL has to offer for its global audience.With IPL, focus shifted from nationalism to regionalism (to a certain extent). However, not always did people support teams according to their regions to which they belonged. Many Indians supported teams according to their favorite cricketers, for example, people supporting Chennai Super Kings, due to the inclusion of Dhoni. People also support teams due to their owner, for example, people supporting Kolkata Knight Riders or Kings XI Punjab, due to their owners, Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta. This particular situation brings in both pros and cons. Positive aspects of the league include, learning other region’s culture, values, beliefs, language etc. Due to the fact that the games of each team takes place in their home grounds, true fans travel all the way to places like Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Rajasthan, etc. As a result, they interact with the people there, they eat the local food and assimilate a bit into their cultures. This can help lessen regional disparities and differences in a diverse country like India. But sometimes, due to the overaffection for a certain team/region can also lead to quarrels among individuals. Some sociologists and thinkers, like Avjit Pathak of JNU, believes that the IPL has “no community in it”, “no group nostalgia”, “no collective aspiration” and “no fragrance of soil” (Pathak, 2018). He believes that the league just uses the names of these places to “arouse a sense of collective identity”, however this is “false consciousness” according to Pathak (2018). As the cricketers have no loyalty or emotional attachment to the community, they are only worried about their price tags (Pathak, 2018).

The Indian Premier League is a league which is subject to various social problems and solving certain problems as well. The IPL has been subject to various controversies of match fixing etc, so this essay won’t focus on those basic social problems. In 2008, Kings XI Punjab’s cheerleaders, were asked to leave the Mohali Stadium by Wizcraft International Entertainment, due to their dark skin (Raj and Sreekumar, 2016). This racist approach was condemned by the media and the audience. Moreover, it is also important to highlight the fact that there is a gender inequity in India in cricket. Women’s cricket came under BCCI in 2007, until then, women had no role to play in IPL, apart from that of cheerleaders, to provide to people’s sexual interests. Women were included in the IPL only in 2018 (only a single match) and in 2019, the women’s IPL was between three teams rather than two teams. But the audience for these matches are tremendously low in numbers. The teams do not have sponsors, any celebrities backing teams, few media channels report it and thus it doesn’t even stand close to IPL. However IPL is a platform which has attracted so many viewers through its branding, that it is a proper platform to promote social causes (Raj and Sreekumar, 2016). For example, Farhan Akhtar promoted MARD, a campaign against gender inequality, during KKR vs Kings XI Punjab (Raj and Sreekumar, 2016). Moreover teams like Mumbai Indians support “Education and Sports for all”, via which it has managed to change the lives of over 18 million children in India.

In conclusion, The Indian Premier League was a league that revolutionized the definition of cricket. It turned the so called “Gentleman’s Game” to pure business, by involving famous celebrities, international players, big industries etc. The game helped Indian sports reach a global stage. It globalized Indian sports and Indian economy as well. The league has helped India earn a name in the sporting industry and has helped promote sports in the country. Due to its massive name and platform individuals have been able to use the platform to address social issues in society. Yes, the league is filled with controversies, match fixings, gender inequity and various other issues. Yet no one can take away the fact that the IPL is a global phenomenon, it has attracted everyone’s attention. The fans have associated with a team and always cheer with full spirit for their favorite teams, while sporting the team’s jerseys. We can see how individuals have associated with teams either because of the region they belong to or by their favorite players or just because of the celebrities. People ending up having a stronger connection to their teams, due to materialistic aspects such as jerseys, caps, team songs etc. People have started to assimilate into different cultures and as a result regional disparities are reducing in India. The Indian Premier League is a frame through which individuals can study aspects which result in understanding the society’s “social actions.”

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