Apr 20, 2008

Washington Redskins perform at a cricket game in India

This is our first-ever post about game entertainment at cricket games. From the Washington Post:

BANGALORE, India, April 18 -- Squeezing through the gates of a sold-out 55,000-seat cricket stadium in steamy evening heat, Hashim Kerala made no attempt to hide his reason for coming to the season's opening match: Cheerleaders. Washington Redskins cheerleaders, to be specific.

In white go-go boots, yellow spangled short shorts and bikini tops, they pompomed their way onto the field, bursting right through local notions of modesty. The result was something that few in this cricket-obsessed nation thought possible: tens of thousands of male cricket fans finding it hard to keep their eyes on the game.


In many corners of the world, cricket is seen as slow-moving and stodgy, a vestige of British colonialism that is a cross between baseball and napping. Organizers of the newly founded Indian Premier League are hoping to drastically change that perception overseas, and bring new verve to the game for the home crowd as well.

So they've brought in 12 Redskins cheerleaders, who, in addition to performing, are mentoring a squad of Indian women. The league is also trying to win fans over to a shortened format of the game that is formally called "Twenty20," known colloquially as "cricket on crack." It condenses nearly a week of match play into three hours, with shorter "overs," which are similar to innings in baseball.


Beer and airline billionaire Vijay Mallya, who calls himself the king of India's good times, agrees. He owns the Bangalore Royal Challengers cricket franchise and invited the Redskins cheerleaders to the game, which pitted his team, on home turf, against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

They're owned by Shah Rukh Khan, India's top movie star. His team fielded its own cheerleaders, both male and female. But their black-and-gold uniforms were much less revealing than those worn by the Americans.

The Redskins cheer choreographer, Donald Wells, said the Indian cheerleaders he's working with are already adept at shaking their hips and staying on the beat. He noticed that Indian cheerleaders were very expressive with their hands -- Indian classical dance has countless hand motions -- and joked that they probably wouldn't need pompoms.


Cricket purists complain that the abbreviated version of the game is cheapening its traditional stately tone.

"Twenty20 Terror?" read the headline of an editorial in the Times of India, a major English-language newspaper. The paper noted worries that money might spoil the "good taste of cricket," but it also saw the shortened game, which was invented in England, as a sign of the times.

But it is often not only the fast-motion format of the new game that offends cricket purists.

The American women's presence has caused a stir across India, a conservative, Hindu-dominated country where even at the beach, women often shun swimwear in favor of saris, which are made of at least six yards of billowing fabric that covers everything from the neckline to the ankles, sometimes leaving the belly exposed. It's a country where the top female tennis star, Sania Mirza, who is Muslim, is often criticized for wearing short skirts on the court.

Some TV pundits pointed out that the Redskins cheerleaders are showing more skin on the cricket pitch than most Indian men will see before marriage.

At the game, the crowd roared every time the cheerleaders appeared on the big screen. "I wish I could wear a bikini, but that's not allowed for Indian women," said Bollywood actress Rakhi Sawant during a heated pregame debate on an Indian cable sports channel. Across South Asia, modesty is still an essential part of everyday life. Public affection is severely frowned on. Protests erupted last year after Richard Gere publicly kissed Bollywood starlet Shilpa Shetty.


Friday's event went smoothly. Though some newspapers had predicted protests, there were none. But there were Indian rock bands, smoke machines, stilt-walking butterflies, ballet dancers in clear plastic cocoons, trapeze artists, a laser-light show and a fireworks display. And, of course, cricket.

Read the entire article...

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