The IPL, Tishani Doshi, and the Forward Poetry Prize

The IPL (Indian Premier League) is back for 2009. The first edition of this Twenty20 cricket tournament, featuring eight teams based in Indian cities, with a mixture of young Indian players and top Indian and world cricket stars, took place in 2008 in India and was a great success – even if it did provoke occasional satirical remarks.

Then came the Mumbai and Lahore terrorist attacks, the latter an attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team. Because the Indian Government could not guarantee security (and because of all sorts of internecine wrangling I won’t go into here), the whole tournament has been picked up and moved to South Africa. It was an amazing logistical effort to move a 59-game tournament halfway round the world in less than a month. So far, though, the South African autumn weather has played havoc with games played in the coastal cities.

But no matter! To celebrate the 2009 IPL, the normally serious Cricinfo site has set up IPL Page 2, a much more frivolous affair which includes a comic strip, jokes, and a blog by one of the cheerleaders at the tournament. (I think having cheerleaders at the cricket is unnecessary at least and sexist at worst, but Rebecca Lee’s account of an apple-pie American being introduced to the alien world of cricket is surprisingly touching.)

Among all this flim-flam, there is some real literary quality. One of Cricinfo’s IPL bloggers is Tishani Doshi, who won the 2006 Forward Poetry Prize for best first collection for her book Countries of the Body.

I haven’t read Countries of the Body, but she’s a fine poet. Read her Ode to the Walking Woman, or watch this video of her performing “The Fasting Season”, and you’ll see what I mean.


It’s good to see that, among the IPL’s endless references to the sponsors – if it’s not a “DLF Maximum” (formerly known as a six) it’s a “Citi Moment of Success”; 7.5 minute “strategic breaks” after 10 overs to cram in more ads; and endless shots of Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta* and Shilpa Shetty watching their respective teams, there is still a place for fine writing in the Indian Premier League.

*Although Preity Zinta deserves respect for two reasons (1) she pays attention to the game, not her fellow celebs and (2) she once faced down the Mumbai mafia pretty much by herself.

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