The 20-20 cricket and launch of DLF Indian Premier League has changed the face of cricket forever, though whether for the good or for the bad is not very clear. The new type of cricket has taken many leafs out of football's books. Amongst the many changes in the game, including different rules and unique composition of teams, one of the most exciting and probably the most controversial was the introduction of cheer leaders.
Cheerleaders in the Indian Premier League, or IPL as it is popularly known, hail from a variety of countries. Girls from the United States of America, South Africa, Australia and even Uzbekistan can be seen strutting their stuff on the side-lines of the field; cheering for their teams and making the crowds go wild. The reactions of the Indian audience towards these dancing divas have been mixed. While there are people who believe that the cheerleaders make the game more entertaining, a section of society including 'old-school' cricket fans think that these invariably 'hot' and scantily-clad women degrade the spirit of the game and disturb the player's concentration.
Pune warriors, who are playing their maiden season this year, introduced another new concept. Addressing the lack of Indian cheerleaders, the team has hired traditional 'Cheer Queens' to support their team. Wearing costumes designed by famous Bollywood designer Neeta Lulla they danced to the directions of ace choreographers Tanusree Shankar and Ganesh Hegde. Their dance forms include Bharata Natyam, Bengali dance, Gujarati Garba, Haryanvi dance, Maharashtrian 'Lavni,' Punjabi Bhangra and Mohiniyattam.
"With Pune Warriors India's 'Cheer Queens,' we intend to showcase and bring recognition to the rich and diverse culture of India at an international platform. The opportunity, which we want all the franchisees of IPL to avail collectively, so that the rich cultural heritage of India is presented in an innovative way to the world" explained Sahara chief Subrata Roy.
Whether Indian or 'imported' the cheerleaders are highly trained, skilled and hard-working dancers. It is no child's play to dance through a match which can last for hours. Thus, it is sad when reports of ill-treatment mar the face of this relatively new form of the game. When Mumbai Indians cheerleader Gabriella Pasqualotto commented on her blog about the flirtatious nature of some players, she was controversially shown the door by BCCI. According to a report in the Times of India dated May 11, 2011, the 22 year old South African revealed that;
"I have come to realise that cricketers are the most loose and mischievous sportsmen I have come across. Makes me wonder if I should worry about them more than the commoners on the street!"