Glamour, business tycoons, Bollywood, drama and a crisp format! It’s a power-packed combo that has helped the Indian Premier League (IPL) draw women fans in huge numbers – even those who otherwise wouldn’t care too much about cricket.
Gone are the days when cricket stadiums during international matches were frequented mainly by men, with a few women seated here and there in the galleries. Perhaps it was actress Mandira Bedi who started it when she hosted the popular show ‘Extra Innings’ in the 2003 World Cup with Charu Sharma, and arguably lured many women to the gentleman’s game. Lalit Modi’s IPL has only taken the process on the fast forward mode.
Several glamorous women own some of the IPL franchises. Bollywood beauties like Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty are owners of franchises Kings 11 Punjab and Rajasthan Royals respectively. Deepika padukone, Katrina Kaif – who cheers for liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s Bangalore Royal challengers Bangalore RCB, Juhi Chawla – who is the co-owner of Shah Rukh Khan’s franchise Kolkata knight riders (KKR) – women are becoming associated with the game more than ever before.
Bollywood diva Sameera Reddy confessed that she did not have any interest in the game earlier, but after coming to the Eden Gardens for a match between Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils, she was transformed into a cricket fan.
Most of the students are very clear that they prefer IPL matches more then One Day Internationals or Tests.
‘IPL is fast and fun. Look, life has become very fast nowadays and we cannot spend a whole day watching a cricket match. The X-factor is there in IPL. That’s what attracts the masses and women too!
‘The best part about IPL is that the home teams have a theme song and we get to dance and party! Just like ‘Korbo lorbo jitbo re’ for KKR!’
Some say the off-field controversies associated with IPL – be it the Shashi Tharoor saga or the past opposition to cheerleaders – are almost as dramatic as soap operas, igniting the interest of many women.
Sreelekha Mitra, a Bengali actress, loves the glitz and glamour of IPL. ‘IPL as a package has everything. Bollywood stars from Shah Rukh to Preity and Shilpa are all involved. This boosts its commercial side to a great extent,’ she said.
‘SRK is bringing almost the whole of Bollywood to watch KKR matches and that’s great. Perhaps that’s why women are so interested. The glamour quotient is high and that’s what attracts women.
‘Plus, T20 being a very short affair is another reason. The concept of cheerleaders, all women, is also a reason.’
Of course, there are those who still steadfastly refuse to be lured by the game, never mind the glitz.