Rinku prayer shot sums up both IPL and modern India

Rinku Singh praying infront of the stumps before kicking off their IPL 2024 preparations

In a photograph that has now gone viral on social media, Rinku Singh is seen at the Eden Gardens praying to the stumps and seeking blessings ahead of the season. The Rinku gesture sums up the IPL perfectly. At its core, it remains very Indian and is the perfect mesh between the traditional and the modern.

In the course of the sixteen years since the inception of the IPL, I have spent time with multiple teams and owners and been amazed at the kind of passion the league generates. For example, the entire senior management of one of the teams used to leave the hotel together around 2pm on match days to offer pujas for the team. They would never be a minute late, and the kind of discipline shown in performing this ritual was unbelievable! Everyone, from team owners to players, was part of the ritual and no one was allowed to miss it. That the team did not have the greatest results is a different matter altogether. 

Team owners, men and women who run big corporations, are not as tense in their business meetings as during the IPL games. One team owner clutches a worn-out picture of his family deity the whole time a match is on, and every wicket falling or boundary scored is greeted by a pranaam. Surrounded by friends and family, an IPL owner’s box best defines the complex Indian modernity of today. Most people in this box wear expensive clothes and watches, carry fancy phones with powerful cameras and drive to the stadium in luxury cars. But when it comes to the game itself, they turn into devout, God-fearing Indians who pray for the success of their teams. 

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So what if they are not playing or have themselves never played the game? Prayers, many feel, are enough to win cricket games. Prashad (devotional offering made to god, usually referring to food) is passed on to the team members hours before the game and everything from Vaastu to feng shui to prayers is tried out. Some blow the conch shell thrice before the team leaves the hotel for the ground. Team names and jersey colours have been altered to align better with the stars, and it is thisfandom of a very different nature that makes the IPL a very different beast in comparison to international cricket. 

That’s what the Rinku image from the Eden Gardens drew attention to. In fact, Rinku was not alone. It was the entire KKR contingent that offered prayers on the first day of practice,e in the hope of a very good season. 

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Russell with Rinku Singh

While retaining a very unique kind of Indianness at its core, the IPL has fundamentally transformed the economy of Indian cricket. When the legendary Arthur Morris, key member of Don Bradman’s Invincibles in the 1940s, was asked what he got out of playing cricket, his answer was startling. Morris negotiated the question with a single-word retort—‘poverty’. With the onset of a cricketing revolution courtesy the IPL, contemporary cricketers are likely to have a radically different answer to a similar question. Most of them, it might be conjectured, would suggest with a welcome smile, ‘We became millionaires.’ 


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