Away from the home crowd and local media glare, as the cricket's gala event, IPL Season-II, kick starts in South Africa's Cape Town with the opener between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, all eyes will be focused on the world's best cricketers during the next month-and-a-half.
And, why not? In the present gloomy scenario, when everybody is more or less impacted by the world recession, 'cricketainment' can be great solace.
Thanks to cricket's worldwide mass appeal, especially its 20-20 'colourful' version, the so-called gentleman's game is no more 'gentle' with beautiful ladies donning the galleries and the boundaries. Not to forget those cheerleaders who already won scores of Indian hearts last year. These American gals might have heaved a sigh of relief that they don't have to face any moral brigade in Rainbow land.
Yes, 'Cricketainment' is the buzzword today; it has over-scored all other games in the cricket-playing world. This IPL is no exception. With over 90 per cent of tickets for this great sporting extravaganza already sold out, who says it is a dying sport? With due respect to Brian Lara, that living legend will have to eat his words on watching this great show.
I am sure his recent comments were in context to Test cricket. Being the Indian journalist who knows Lara personally and to whom he gave his maiden interview during his visit to India over a decade back (when he made twin world records), I can say that the media had misquoted him.
Coming back to cricket in India, where it is a religion of sorts, the country can take pride in its current players and heroes of yesteryear. While all eyes will be on M S Dhoni and company, plus some international stars in the middle, who can forget the likes of the legendary Sunil Gavasker in the commentary box. There will be entertainment at its best for the next 36 days.
Yes, cricket has become money business today and everybody wants a share of the pie. Think of the cash-flow the IPL will bring to the South African government and its people. We can call it fluctuating fortunes in favour of the Proteas this time. Of course, the losers are the Indian government and its cricket-loving people. Well, players' security is bigger than cricket.
Talking of cricket fans, who cares for them anyway? Everybody is making money in the name of fans, thanks to the cricket-craze in India. You can sell everything -- from T-shirts to underwear -- in the name of cricket, no matter you know the ABC of cricket or not. Such is the power of the game. The lure of lucre will always score over cricketers and businesses connected to the game.
On the other hand, it is also true that the winning spirit has seeped into the bodies and minds of tens and thousands of Indians, irrespective of the fact that they are in India or on foreign soil. Of late, Dhoni and his men in blue have proved to the world that they are the best. Their recent victories over World champions Australia and then New Zealand on their own turfs have won the hearts of the public.
Well, other games like shooting, wrestling and, of late, hockey, too have done India proud but cricket has its own charm and aura. Ask any man, or for that matter woman, on the street as to which game he/she would prefer to watch, and cricket would be the answer.
So, beginning this afternoon, hogging the limelight and soaking in success will be our cricket heroes. Cheer them from your living rooms, or wherever you are watching them live on television.
R M S Atwal is a Ludhiana-based freelance journalist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org