The IPL Night was a fashion show, disco, fan zone and singles club rolled into one. It was open to players and the public. The public had to buy a pass worth almost Rs 40,000 per entry.
The party would start with a fashion show. The players would watch vacantly, drink in hand. They knew the mojo of the party was in the private enclosure, protected by a dozen bodyguards and where they would be away from intrusive mobile phone cameras.
Complete privacy, however, was impossible. If cricketers are good at finding gaps, so are gatecrashers. They would be shocked at the gusto with which India players, role models to millions, embraced the bottle and cigarette. Indian cricketers have led colourful lives for years. Till recently, however, their indulgences were not public. Rohit Sharma, eyewitnesses say, guzzled straight from the bottle and smoked and danced. In the past, players would dare to drink in public only if they won something significant. Indians players swigged openly from champagne magnums after the triumphs at the 1983 World Cup or the 1985 World Championship of Cricket.
Then, players would try to pick up women. There were many available women, though cheerleaders and models were not always among them. They were not allowed to mingle with a player for more than five minutes. That said, five minutes is enough to exchange room numbers or try a pick-up line.
Senior stars who have seen it all, like Tendulkar, Dravid or Dhoni, rarely attended. Young India players, still new to the debauchery, enjoyed the parties. So did foreign players, who came from cultures where drinking and one-night stands are normal activities for young people.
However, there is no doubt it took a toll on their bodies. As a player said, “So you tell yourself, I’ll go down for an hour; only, it’s never an hour. Before you know it, it’s 4 am and you’re heading back to your room, hurrying to pack up and head to another city, another game, another sponsor’s commitment (which are endless), another shoot possibly, and yes, another party.”