IPL - a home away from home

Rahul Dravid - a man who was till recently India's captain and a hero in every cricket ground in the nation.

updated: May 13, 2008 12:57 IST
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Rahul Dravid - a man who was till recently India's captain and a hero in every cricket ground in the nation.

But now, he has a new challenge as the captain of Royal challenger - to get the crowds on his side.

"It's an unique experience to come to Bombay, hit a four and not have the crowd cheer for you. But it's something I need to get used to all round the country," he says.

Welcome to the loyalty khichdi of the Indian Premier League.

If the tournament is a melting pot for different nationalities, it is also a hotch potch of players doing city crossovers.

Dhoni's simply south take with a bit of Rajni speak is the spiciest script on the blurring of regional identities.

And he is not the only one.

From Shah Rukh Khan, who now mouths the Knight Riders war mantra with three Bengali words Korbo, Lorbo Jeetbo (we will do, fight and win), to Preity Zinta - now the much accepted Punjabi kudi and owner of the Punjab team, there are many such people who are caught in the frenzy of the DLF IPL.

However, it is the players who are now coming to terms with their new loyalties.

Like Robin Uthapa - the Bangalore boy who is now shaking the world. Then there's Sreesanth - the controversial and confused poster kid of Indian cricket. He is the part of team Punjab which is a completely different culture curry.

Similar is the case with India's best fast bowling find Ishant Sharma who is originally a Delhi boy but now a Kolkata knight. He may not know his jhaal (spice) from jhol (the Bengali curry) but may well be invited to inaugurate many of this year's Durga Puja pandals.

Another such player is swing bowler Praveen Kumar who is now a member of the Royal Challengers. For people in Bangalore, he is their namma hudga (our boy) but he still needs boss Dravid as translator.

But does this new mix make it difficult to have proper homegrown loyalties?

"I have a real IPL problem. I am a Bengali and I live in Bangalore. So, do I support Sourav's team or Dravid's? To develop loyalties for a team which doesn't have too many local players from the community is a problem," Wisden Almanack Editor Scyld Berry says.

But almost halfway through the league, these doubts are getting cleared as big cities have accepted players from other towns like Piyush Chawla - a UP bhaiyya but now a Punjab prince.

The IPL is perhaps India's most successful national integration programme after the tunes of Doordarshan's campaign of the eighties. It is not just the world that has come to India, a bit of India that has also come home - at least to eight Indian cities.