Dipped in Witriol
The victory parade by the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), through the streets of city they represent, followed by the glittering ceremony at the Eden Gardens--attended by a crowd upwards of 60,000-- and topped by team owner Shah Rukh Khan handing over the trophy to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, has set many financial strategists in media houses thinking. If IPL-5 was such a success story what could be done to make even more capital out of its next edition?
So enthused were these gentlemen with calculators that, in an unusual show of camaraderie, ten media whizz kids from across the country (unfriendly journalists, of course, not included) decided to collectively draw up plans. “If we are together on this, we can work wonders. So let us meet asap,” was the e-mail sent out to others by the representative of a Delhi-based paper which describes itself as “the real market leader.”
Moving rather quickly on his invitation a special meeting was organized in less than 24 hours. And to ensure that no sod with his ears to the ground would get a drift of the grand plans, a unique venue for the exchange of ideas was selected. One of the many grounded Air India jets was chartered. Two pilots (on strike) were given a freelance flying assignment and so were the cabin crew with one month free subscription to a newspaper of their choice as an added incentive. Incidentally, a more expensive gift for the ladies was considered but in keeping with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s call for austerity the idea was shelved. Similarly, greasy snacks for the flight were sourced from a roadside eatery in South Delhi and not from a five star. This, it was felt, would not only cut costs but also send out the subliminal message that several palms will have to be greased if any grand plan has to take off.
Anyway, that apart, it was on a hot sweltering day that the ten wise men boarded the Airbus at Delhi airport. Once inside they pulled out masks of their favourite IPL cricketer from their briefcases and wore them. This was done to set the tone for the historic (con)ference in the air. So, before he taxied on to the runway the Captain (who used the alias Maharaja and had dressed up as the famous Air India mascot to disguise himself lest he labeled as a traitor by his striking colleagues) stepped out of the flight deck to sneak a look at his illustrious passengers who just wanted him to fly the plane at about 28,000 feet for an hour before returning to Delhi. “Mr Maharaja just fly the plane for an hour in any direction but at a height that even eagles can’t hear what is being discussed on board,” he had earlier been told by the middleman who had struck the deal for this curious flight.
Well, who were his passengers? What the Captain saw before him was a motley crew of fat and lean men wearing masks caricaturing IPL players. “Well it takes all kinds even the kinky types,” he remarked to a member of the cabin crew going down the aisle with the welcome jal-jeera drink. He later told her to keep a sharp ear on what was being discussed. “It may help us place bets in the next IPL,” he added. So it is thanks to the lady that we know what transpired at 28,000 feet. Here goes:
Once the fasten seat belt sign was switched off the meeting was called to order. The gentlemen wearing the Dhoni mask dressed in shorts, shirt and his school tie kicked off the meeting with the following observations:
· Everyone was unanimous during the telephonic discussions that IPL-6 should be milked by the media to the maximum.
· The entire plan to do so has been christened Well Played News (WPN). The name was thought to be better than Paid News which will confuse the likes of Press Council chairman, Justice Markandey Katju, and journalist P. Sainath who are opposed to any money making innovation in the media.
· Editors should be directed to take a leaf out of TV news channels which gave live coverage from start to finish of the KKR’s victory rally and celebrations in Kolkata. Similarly, the print media should also devote more space to IPL even if it is at the cost of news. A snap survey by the ever reliable Murugan and Saini revealed that majority of readers would rather read about Dhoni’s helicopter shot than the Rs 2800 crore Pilatus aircraft deal.
Following these opening remarks the meeting got under way. Here are the minutes captured on her mobile by the plucky airhostess:
THIS AIN’T NO TROPHY. IT’S THE WORLD CUP: Everyone present is agreed that going by the scale of celebrations in Kolkata after KKR lifted the IPL-trophy it’s obvious that most Kolkatans believed that Bengal had won the World Cup. The sheer joy all around, people coming out on the streets and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s participation at the celebrations at the Eden Gardens has shown us the way. The IPL governing body and the BCCI must be persuaded to accord the IPL-trophy World Cup status. That will further increase public participation in the event.
MORE MATCHES MEANS MORE MONEY: Our friend from the south (who is wearing the Murali Vijay mask) was good enough to do some vital number crunching. His results are very encouraging:
IPL-5 saw 51 days of action with 74 matches. Nine teams, each representing a particular city took part in the tournament. Going by these stats if we were to have nine tournaments (IPL-6 spread over an A to I series) running over a little over a year and three months then we can have 459 days of action. What’s more we can then ensure one victory (read a World Cup) each for all the nine teams. If this proposal is implemented there will be a whopping 666 matches. But there is one difficulty. It has been noted that the Christian community might have reservations to the number of games since there is a mention in the Book of Revelation that 666 is the number of the devil. But that hurdle can be crossed by including one more team into the mix. So at the end of the day we will have a dream scenario where nine (or ten) chief ministers will receive a World Cup from a victorious team. To put all this in perspective-- the CM’s will be happy, the players will be thrilled, and the nation overjoyed with so many World Cups. There will be other spin offs as well—beer sales will be up, so will brawls. There will more scandals involving players and fans and round the year controversies. All this will translate into good entertaining news for the media.
And if the ball is set rolling in January next year then we will have cricket almost till Elections 2014. With high voltage coverage of cricket there will be very little space for news about scams and the like. This will be a situation that the UPA government wouldn’t mind at all. State of the nation concerns will be replaced by the magic of T-20.
FIXING ZINDABAD! It has been correctly pointed out that to ensure that each team lifts the Cup some serious match fixing will be essential. It has been decided to form a core group called Quick-fixers who will do the needful. Many of us can bring our rich experience to the table. It will help managements rise to a rarified level when it comes to big=time betting.
INNOVATIVE ADVERTISING: Its importance was pointed out by all present. The suggestion by the Mumbai representative that expressions used by commentators and players could be exploited is laden with possibilities. Thus one could pitch for Hugo-Boss ads featuring Navjot Sidhu whose penchant for using the “Boss” word in practically every sentence is well known. Ravi Shastri’s “I get the Feeling” is promising. We must take the initiative and put forward suggestions to the advertising agencies. Similarly, innovative ads should be planned which pushes non-IPL news into the inner reaches of the paper or news channel. All of us are agreed that if we take this first historic step then the day will not be far when every state and union territory in the country will have its own World Cup. If cricket is our religion then IPL is our God.
Recorded at 28,000 feet above sea level on May 30, in the year of the Lord, 2012.