Cheerleading, a changing tradition in Indian cricket
Come the Indian Premier League and with it came one important element: cheerleading. Dressed in flashy clothes and adorning the pom poms, these cheerleaders were seen adding a whole new flavour to the game, a flavour that most of the Indians, especially the middle and old aged were not prepared to accept.
A concept that was first started in the United States, it slowly spread to other parts of the world and soon became viral in India. The IPL teams were seen importing American and European girls to cheer for their teams.
“Where I’m from, cheerleading is a sport. All across the United States there are hundreds of thousands of cheerleaders ready to pep up and kick-start any event, starting from as young as around five years old,” says Angela Carsan in a feature about the Royal Challengers Bangalore team’s cheerleaders.
While the owners, the team players and the organizers were excited about this addition to the game of cricket, it was met with scepticism by the fans and the ordinary men alike.
Gowtham Ganesh, a Chennai division II India Cements fast bowler said, “It is just glamour. There is no need for cheerleading and it impacts the players in no way.”
“It is quite unnecessary. There is a lot of skin show involved and this is now needed when the audience are there to admire the team’s performance,” says Parvathya Sripadhan, an aspiring Public Relations Officer and a writer.
“The phenomenon of cheerleading is irrelevant and completely demeaning. It is pure entertainment and is not in the spirit of sportsmanship,” says Namitha Jayashankar, an ardent cricket fan.
“I don’t like the concept as it ‘objectifies’ the dancers and do not add any value to the sport as such,” says Nivedita Shankar, cricketer, Tamil Nadu women’s team.
On the other hand, there are some fans who are completely okay with the new addition and show their support for the same.
Stereotyping the profession:
There might be a valid point that it is not in the Indian culture to accept cheerleading but it this does not mean that their profession is in anyway less than any other. “I was chatting with an Indian buddy of mine about them and he was convinced that they were strippers and escorts brought here to cheer,” says Angela Carson while talking about the negative view points of people on cheerleaders. “I’d like people to see them for who they really are inside, instead of some made-up stereotype because they dance and wear a cheer uniform,” she adds.
The ‘distraction’ factor:
Shahid Afridi, the Pakistani all-rounder, in a statement about the cheerleaders in the first season of IPL said that the cheerleaders were distracting. In addition to this, there were also similar statements made by players and politicians alike. Nidheya Suresh, a hard core Royal Challengers Fan says, “Honestly, I have no problem with it. The individual players should have the capacity to not get distracted. If some can play and not get distracted, why can’t everyone? People shouldn’t blame the cheerleaders for that or for their choice of profession.”
The changing order of cheerleading in India:
With the introduction of the Pune Warriors in the 2011 edition of the Indian Premier League, there was an innovative idea that was thought of. Cheerleaders from India with Indian attire made their way to the side of the stadium, drawing attention of crores of people across the world. They were clad in sarees and Indian attire, a sweet smile playing on their lips.
“I thought it was a brilliant way to move out of our set thinking about cheerleaders,” said dancer Tanushree Shankar, a consultant with the Pune Warriors India Cheer Queens last year to BBC when asked about the traditional element in cheerleading.
Following suit, the Kolkata Knight Riders also introduced the ‘traditional’ element and soon, these two teams were fighting it out, not only on field, but on the cheerleading front as well.
“Indian tradition is one of the oldest and the most beautiful traditions. They say a woman looks the best in a traditional attire. It was a sensible move by both the teams. The thing about cricket in India is it is followed by all the generations, right from 8 to 80. And statistics say that more than half of the followers are between 60 and 80 and they get offended by the cheerleaders and their provocative dressing,” says Kanha Manoj, cricketer, DG Vaishnav College, Chennai.