PRELUDE: What do you think of when you think of cricket? It doesn’t matter for Lalit Modi is going tell you what to think. When Modi thinks of ‘gentleman’s game’, he thinks of auctioned cricketers, striding down nightclub ramps. When Modi thinks ‘action’, he thinks of Caucasian girls with pompoms, twerking on podiums to Karbonn Kamaal catches and sixes known as DLF Maximums. When Modi thinks ‘competition’, he thinks of saas-bahu soaps and when he thinks ‘spectators’, he has a joint family’s television dinner in mind. When Modi thinks of cricket, he thinks of a giant money-belching machine. Soon, so shall we.
2008 SEASON 1: Kolkata Knight Riders’ Brendon McCullum, with an unbeaten 158, ushers cricket into the IPL era. Elsewhere, Harbhajan Singh slaps India team-mate S Sreesanth in a dressing room, only for the latter to rush out on to the field and bawl into actress and King XI Punjab owner Preity Zinta’s arms. Rajasthan Royals, the poorest of the eight franchises, produce an Aesopian finish by clinching the first trophy.
2009 SEASON 2: The circus moves to South Africa after the Government refuses to provide security as it clashes with the General Elections. Now Durban is Delhi, Bloemfontein Bangalore and Pietermaritzburg Punjab. To keep the advertisers back home interested, Modi introduces a seven-and-a-half minute time-out midway through each innings. Meanwhile, Manish Pandey, a 19-year old rookie, becomes the first Indian to score an IPL century. Deccan Chargers, the bottom-placed team from the first season, wins the tournament.
2010 SEASON 3: The season that will cost both Modi and Shashi Tharoor their jobs. Modi accuses Tharoor—then a Congress MP and a man who mentored a consortium of stakeholders and facilitated the bid for Kochi Tuskers—of conflict of interest. Sunanda Pushkar, who later becomes Tharoor’s wife, has a stake in the franchise. Tharoor resigns. The end is nigh for Modi too, who gets the axe for rigging bids. Somewhere in there, some cricket is played. Chennai Super Kings win their maiden trophy.
2011 SEASON 4: Saturation point, considering the season begins less than a week after India win the ICC World Cup. It is by far the most boring season, devoid of competition and its cornerstone, controversies. Spread over 53 days, 10 teams play out 74 matches. Even Ravi Shastri, the tournament’s drum major, looks confused. While interviewing two captains at the toss he is caught saying: “Your last game was a good, tight one against... whom did you beat?” Even the winner is repetitive, CSK.
2012 SEASON 5: An India TV sting operation has five fringe players agreeing to spot-fix for money in the IPL. Then, RCB’s Luke Pomersbach is arrested by Delhi Police for allegedly molesting an American woman. Then, South Africa’s Wayne Parnell and India leg-spinner Rahul Sharma, both part of the Pune franchise, are caught doing recreational drugs during a police raid in a Mumbai nightclub. Then, Shah Rukh Khan is banned from entering the Wankhede Stadium for five years after he manhandles a guard. Khan’s team, KKR, wins the tournament.
2013 SEASON 6: Scandals, redux. Delhi Police arrest Rajasthan Royals’ S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan for fulfilling promises made to bookies to underperform in IPL matches. Royals owner Raj Kundra (Shilpa Shetty’s husband) confesses to betting in matches involving his team. Also caught by the police is Gurunath Meiyappan, son-in-law of N Srinivasan, then CSK owner and BCCI chief. The murkiest season yet ends with CSK losing in the final to Mumbai Indians.
2014 SEASON 7: The focus is on the rejects. KXIP is a team brimming with rejects. Virender Sehwag, an Indian team reject. Glenn Maxwell, a Mumbai Indians reject. Captain George Bailey, a CSK reject. These rejects blend into a winning force, scripting a near perfect underdog story. Near perfect. They make the final, only for KKR to walk away with their second title.
2015 SEASON 8: A fortnight after India’s exit from the World Cup—an exit blamed, of all reasons, on Anushka Sharma, Virat Kohli’s girlfriend—the eighth edition begins. During a rain- break, Kohli meets Sharma in the stands and is found guilty for violating BCCI’s anti-corruption code. The real romance, though, is Mumbai Indians, who, despite being at the bottom of the table after two weeks of cricket, make and win the final.
2016 SEASON 9: The season, incredibly, is all about the cricket. Thanks to Virat Kohli. The captain strikes a century in RCB’s fifth match. Then in their eighth. One more in the eleventh. Another in the thirteenth. To go with his four hundreds, he also cracks seven fifties, the last of those in the final to take his season tally to 973 runs. Yet, his side falls short of the target by 8 runs. Now the season, incredibly, is all about Sunrisers Hyderabad.
2017 SEASON 10: Most of India’s A-listers (Kohli, Ashwin, Rahul, Jadeja) are sitting out this season. But when have cricketers, or cricket, ever come in the way of the IPL? The show goes on.