The gathering wave of anger of the politically fickle Indian middle class is set to crash against the wall of the nation's favourite sport entertainment, cricket. Experience tells us that Indian Premier League (IPL) will take over the headlines and popular imagination, and the anti-corruption agitation, Anna Hazare, will quietly slip into the inside pages, or television's 'other headlines'.
However, Che Guevara would have said IPL could not have come at a better time. Mao Tse-Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Amilcar Cabral, Surja Sen would agree. If you think guerrilla, India's most high-profile sports event is waiting to be ambushed and hijacked peacefully by those fighting corruption and use it as a showcase of collective anger.
Imagine if thousands of spectators, instead of flashing cards for four or six, enter the stadium carrying protest placards or wearing Anna Hazare caps. At every venue, starting with Chennai today, people can enjoy cricket, as well as turn the multi-crore cricket circus into a daily, high-visibility reminder that a bigger battle is being fought elsewhere. That this rare momentum an otherwise politically inert Middle India has gathered is not to be wasted on an engaging pastime.
Ideally, Indian cricketers should also play the tournament wearing protest badges. Around the world sportspersons have used such events to highlight issues from genocide in Africa to labour trouble in Sheffield. If Indian cricket stars can wear corporate logos from head to toe, why can't they wear a protest batch to express solidarity with millions of Indians whose love and money has made them rich and famous?
But then, one thinks of the man who heads the BCCI and ICC, the world's two biggest and richest cricket bodies, and players taking such a revolutionary road seems unlikely. Apart from that, the sponsors of cricket, to whom Sachin, Dhoni and others are tied with multi-million-dollar leashes, are not the most fervent champions of clean deals. The nation would be pleasantly surprised, however, if even one of our cricket heroes walks in to bat or field with a symbol of protest.
But spectators using IPL to fight corruption is more practical. Let us see Chennai lead the way.
This once, mix cricket with politics, stir well, serve hot. That way, you enjoy the match, and the match enjoys a much higher place in history.