Nothing to cheer about



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Gabriella Pasqualotto, a South African cheerleader, had to pack her bags and head home after being fired from IPL-4.

Her fault? She wrote a blog about cricketers who 'misbehaved.' She described what it was like to cheer in front of thousands and how, to the Indian citizens, they were "practically like walking porn!"

These remarks in the blog entitled ‘The Secret Diary of an IPL Cheerleader’, which Pasqualotto wrote for a website, chronicled her rather harrowing experience in ‘cricket-crazy’ India. Besides, her explosive statements such as “cricketers are the most loose and mischievous sportsmen I have come across” and “beware of the cricketers!” also cut her India trip short.

She revealed more: “Usually after day matches there is an exclusive after-party and at night is when it all happens. The music pumps, the drinks flow and the cricketers come and go.”

“Ol Graeme Smith will flirt with anything while his girlfriend lurks behind him. The Aussies are fun but naughty, such as Aiden Blizzard and Dan Christian. By the end of a crazy evening, a certain someone had played kissing catchers with three girls known to me only, although he has his own girlfriend back home. He cooed to each girl, “Come home with me, I just want to cuddle!” Pasqualotto broke the cardinal rule and was ergo, penalised.

But before we enter into a diatribe of what is afflicting the gentleman's game, let's learn a little about the history behind cheerleading. Quintessentially an American activity, it originated in the US on a football field in the late 1880s. Ironically, back then, it was an all-male activity, girls trickled into this sport during 1920s when men became scarce as they were drafted for war.

Though cheerleading as a sport mostly holds a negative image (as portrayed in popular culture, mostly in American movies), over the years it has become a formidable industry in the US.

In 2008, when it was decided that cheerleading would be become a part of IPL, I was sceptical about the whole idea. A group of girls with pom-poms grooving to Bollywood tunes on the cricket pitch gave an incongruous effect back in 2008 and it still does in 2011. It dilutes the whole experience of cricketing.

Already a cricket-crazy nation, why do we need to resort to such pomp and show to promote the game? Anyway, the crux behind introducing the T20 format was to create a lively form of the game which would attract both the spectators on the field and viewers on television. So, why do we need cheerleaders in the Indian Premier League? How does it promote the game? Do they actually lead the cheer or are they just mere distraction?

These are some of the imperative questions, which need to be asked. Cheerleading as a sport (it is debatable if it ought to be considered a sport) in the US is an organised industry, weaved into the very fabric of American sporting culture.

Undeniably, it occupies a contested space in the American society. Well, this debate will go on. Without further digressing, the key point is, why do we require girls in rah-rah skirts and hot pants bumping, grinding and doing hip-gyrating dance routines on the field?

Cricket as a sport does not need that extra push to attract fans. Do such antics really lift our 'spirit' in a cricket match? Cricket is not that boring a sport. Why do we need a 'sport' on the sidelines of another sport? How do they complement each other?

When cheerleaders were first introduced in 2008, it triggered a moral debate. India's cultural conservatives were severely conflicted on this matter. However, with time it died down. Maybe, the South African cheerleader was sent home to avoid stoking the 'moral brigade.' Leaving aside the morality factor, girl’s rah-rahing on the sidelines is nothing more than distraction.

Christened as a gentleman's game, cricket should be allowed to evolve as gentlemen’s game. Why should we scar the Indian cricket psyche with such titillation?

Can we imagine IPL sans cheerleading? Yes, we can.