x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Mumbai Indians may have taken the role of villain in IPL

For a league to really function someone has to be reviled and in the IPL the Mumbai Indians may have that role.

Despite the lauded Sachin Tendulkar, above left with Ambati Rayudu, playing for them, there are some fans of the IPL who dislike the Mumbai Indians and have set up a Facebook group to discuss their dislike of the franchise.
Despite the lauded Sachin Tendulkar, above left with Ambati Rayudu, playing for them, there are some fans of the IPL who dislike the Mumbai Indians and have set up a Facebook group to discuss their dislike of the franchise.

On the verge of leaving the alluring energy of Mumbai, I fretted for the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Sure, I worried that it started up about 25 minutes after the World Cup, but also that it might lack for contempt.

Every league needs the disdain, disgust and revulsion for other human beings that make sport so beautiful.

How dull would it be without a loathsome Manchester United, New York Yankees or Real Madrid?

How dreary might the world be if we did not have stadiums for the expression of abhorrence? Are stadiums not by far the safest, healthiest place for this?

Yet in a league just four years old, it would seem difficult to accrue such wondrous detestation.

Fortunately, Thomson, cricket aficionado and the host extraordinaire at the tourist-must Leopold Cafe, clarified some matters for me.

On the subject of cricket saturation, he said, "It's not too much for me, but it might be too much for the players," then rattled off the chockablock India schedule for rest of the year.

That means we can pity the cricketers for their duress, or refrain from pitying them given the compensation they receive for their duress.

I choose the latter and move to my greater concern.

Had enough IPL time elapsed to develop the exquisite contempt of sport? How could you loathe a club that had not done your club years of harm?

How could any club have done your club all that much harm in a mere three seasons?

Thomson carefully explained that fans could always summon the nausea for a certain player, thereby lumping in that player's entire squad for perfectly reasonable distaste.

It made sense, but as I set about watching some IPL in sport lounges, I struggled to find the charming, irrational enmity that helps make life worthwhile.

I began on the first Saturday night, viewing the newborn Kochi Tuskers Kerala against the Bangalore Royal Challengers.

Thereby did I feel profound honour in joining the first batch of humans ever to watch Kochi Tuskers Kerala on a big screen. In a two-story place half-full - or half-empty if you see life that way - people seemed to cheer for all the boundaries and sixes, but without any real disdain or oomph.

Really, how could you muster such?

On the next day in stultifying humidity, I roamed South Mumbai viewing at three different establishments the afternoon match between Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils.

Indoor crowds proved sparse or worse. Outdoor crowds bustled at Oval Maidan, playing rather than watching, or by the sea along Marine Drive even while Sachin Tendulkar batted. As if sunset over Sachin did not constitute sacrilege. In various conversations, I located no particular contempt and deepened my worry for the league.

Fortunately, one should never underestimate fanatics.

To find the ultimate human expression, often in capital letters, one must plumb - of course! - Facebook and Twitter. There, you can glean an encouraging culture of reassuring antipathy.

The Facebook group "I Hate Mumbai Indians" had 445 members as of last week, and it "strictly prohibited" any avowed MI fans, as if it really could tell.

Rationale for animus included "because they show off their money and status" and "because all Mumbaikars say from the past two years that MI will win in final", but MI do not win in final.

From that glory, I found some mini-trends. Some group creators seem to be schoolchildren, signalling youth's promising indoctrination into magnificent scorn.

One group managed to detest both Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore, a cross-section of dislike qualifying as geographically creative.

Groups usually listed nothing under "events," a relief because while contempt remains necessary to sustain sport, you would hate to attend events devoted to it. (Think of the dim conversations.)

One fan hated Chennai Super Kings "to the core", which defied the thought that in a young league you could hate a club only to just-beneath-the-skin.

A good chunk of antipathy has built toward Kolkata Knight Riders for their refusal to retain Sourav Ganguly, which did result last week in a protest and a boycott and empty seats for the first home match - all great signs.

Some hate groups remained "closed", wishing to remain secretly contemptuous.

Someone pegged Kolkata as the IPL's "worst team ever", leaving solace in that "ever" had not been all that long.

Most hopefully, however, was that 58 members had signed up to loathe Kochi Tuskers Kerala, astonishing, given the club's nascence and that they could not have hurt anybody until Friday when they shocked Mumbai Indians.

With that achievement in irrationality, I had fresh hope for the Indian Premier League.