January 15, 2010

My book tells everything that the blog didn’t: Fake IPL Player

Click here for a Hindi version of this interview
The Fake IPL Player (henceforth to be known as FIP) needs no introduction. Last year during the Indian Premier League, a blog suddenly appeared that was purportedly written by a fringe ‘anonymous’ player of one of the IPL’s most popular franchises. Giving a warts-and-all brutally irreverent fly’s eyes view of the inner workings of a doomed team and liberally peppered with salacious accounts of off-field superstars (whose actual identities were hidden behind easily-guessable monikers –a few of which like Kaan Molu and Appam Chutiya have since become part of our vocabulary) the FIP became a viral Internet phenomenon.

Who was FIP? Was he actually a player? Was it a publicity gimmick? More importantly, was this the truth? Or like everything else we are told, the ardha-satya?

The FIP became water-cooler talk in every office where cricket is discussed as people poured over screens dissecting the allusions to real players in posts. Certain players were suspected, a newspaper even broke the so-called identity of FIP and then retracted, the said franchise came up with an official statement on their blog, and as the FIP’s posts sounded realistically accurate, confusion became more confounded. The world waited eagerly till the end of the tournament, not just because it was overtly long but because FIP promised to reveal his identity only then.

He did. Well not really. In a video which showed his shadow, the FIP confessed to not being a player. Then who was he? Just a Indian cricket fan, but not an ordinary one. One who during “the faceless journey of life”,  happened “to get intimately exposed to cricket. From the Kings of Bollywood to the pimps of cricket and vice-versa”, an experience that converted him into “an insider, the the fly on the wall, the ghost in the darkness.”

He left with a promise.

Well the FIP is back to make history. With his book ‘Gamechangers’ being brought out by Harper Collins. And to tell you more is the man himself in his first ever interview. In conversation with the winner of the "Indiblog of the Year" award winner Arnab Ray.

In case you are wondering, this interview is not due to the fact that both FIP & Arnab share the publisher (Arnab's book 'May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss', published by Harper Collins would be out in March 2010). It is normally the tradition that the winner of the top laurels, "Indiblog of the Year" award, is interviewed at Indibloggies. However we felt that since he had been interviewed after winning the same award before it would be better that we did an interview of someone else. And FIP, the winner for 2008 Indibloggies Sports Blog of the Year, was the obvious choice.

Enough talk. Silence. Here he is. The Fake IPL Player. For the first time since he stopped blogging.

Arnab: What led you to start the FIP blog? Was it something that you had wanted to do for long or was it something you thought of one fine day on an impulse?
FIP: The blog itself was a spur of the moment thing. What happened was, over the years, I had collected a bagful of juicy stories which I sometimes shared with my close friends. For obvious reasons, they loved them. One evening, a few days before I left for South Africa, we were sitting around, drinking beer, me and three other friends, when one of them suggested that I put the stuff out on a blog so they can enjoy the stories in real time. I said cool. It was supposed to be a dirty little black book between just the four of us. I never thought of making it ‘Private’ probably because I never expected anybody to find out about it.

But, I do remember thinking about how to make it more interesting than just a discussion board. I thought about Fake Steve Jobs and ‘War for news’. And, coincidentally, I watched the movie ‘Wag the dog’ on the flight to Jo’burg. The Fake IPL Player persona was, in some ways, influenced by all three.

Arnab: People start blogs and struggle to get noticed. How did you manage to create a readership so quick? More specifically, how did an initial set of people even come to know that there was this delightfully “evil” blog called the FIP? :-)

FIP: To be honest, I have no frickin’ clue how it got out. For the first few days, it was just the four of us having fun on the blog. Then, one fine day I woke up to see 5 or 6 guys not known to me who had signed up as followers. And several others who had started commenting on the blog. I asked my friends if they had talked about it to anyone and they all said ‘No’. I have a feeling though that at least one of them would have told somebody. [At the time I felt differently about it, but now I am not complaining ;-) ]

By the end of the day, the Follower count had reached double figures. I was a bit worried then. I texted the most sensible guy in our group and asked him if I should continue. His response was ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’. So I continued. A couple of days later, Cricinfo put it on their home page. I remember I was on my way to Kingsmead for the KKR Vs King’s XI game when my friend messaged me saying that the blog was on Cricinfo home page. By the time I returned to my hotel, the Follower count was 150. Eventually, it reached almost 9000. I can’t stop laughing every time I remember how scared I was when it had reached 15.

Cricinfo got to know about it very early. My guess is that either they chanced upon it accidentally or one of the earliest finders may have posted it on their Facebook wall or something. I don’t know. But, I think they were amongst the first to know. They may have monitored it for a couple of days to confirm whether the stuff being written was true or not. Once they were satisfied, they probably put it up. After that, it just took off.

Arnab: Was it all a work of fiction or was it what film-makers call “based on facts”? If it was, did you have a source inside the team or inside the press corps?
FIP: I stand by the disclaimer on the blog, “All characters in the blog are fictitious. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental and unintentional.”

Arnab: Were you ever bothered about the ethics behind maintaining the ruse of being an actual IPL player (I am going by the video you put up where you talked about merely being an avid cricket lover), which if taken seriously might lead to witch-hunts inside the team and ultimately to innocent players being put under a cloud? Or did you consider the use of the word “Fake” in “Fake IPL Player” enough of a disclaimer, even though the principal appeal of the blog did come from people perceiving it to be real?

FIP: I always ensured that I gave enough clues that would tell the management who I could or could not be. I must confess that during the initial days, when the blog was still private, I was a bit careless on that front. But once it got popular and I decided to continue it, I edited out some of the earlier indiscretions and made sure I wrote stuff that wouldn’t put any particular player under the scanner. There certainly was a witch-hunt on and I followed it closely, but I was sure that no innocent player would pay a price for the blog. I trusted the team management with at least a quarter of a brain not to do something that stupid.

I was concerned when Aakash and Bangar were sent back. I stopped blogging for a couple of days until I got a confirmation from none other than Aakash himself that it wasn’t because of the blog.

To correct your question just a wee bit, while I have always been an avid cricket follower, over the last ten years or so I have had opportunities to be a little more than ‘merely an avid cricket follower’ and I think something to that effect was mentioned in the video post as well. But, you are right, I did think that the word ‘Fake’ in the name absolved me a bit.

Arnab: Will you ever reveal your identity? If not, why?

FIP: I don’t know about ‘ever’, but at the moment I am quite happy in anonymity.

A couple of years ago, I met this fascinating man in Paris. He was extremely well read and knowledgeable, but other than that he seemed like a regular, middle aged guy with a regular job at a French Football Club. Nothing out of the ordinary. He invited me to spend a weekend at his upcountry home with his wife and three kids. When I went there I realised that his upcountry home was actually a chateaux, he was a billionaire and part-owner of the club.  I asked him how and why he keeps such a low profile. His response was ‘vivre cache pour vivre heureux’, which means ‘to lead a hidden life is to lead a happy life’.

Arnab: What led you to suddenly backtrack from revealing your identity?

FIP: There was a chance that my identity would put some players I know well in a bit of a pickle. When I thought of it I didn’t feel right about putting them in an awkward situation for no fault of theirs.

Arnab: Do you read other blogs? If you do, which ones?

FIP: My favourite blog is thevigilidiot.com This guy is just hilarious. I actually watched Kurbaan after reading his review to see how mind-numbingly inane it could possibly be.

The other blog I love is the Inclusive Planet blog. Inclusive Planet is an organisation that provides services to the disabled sector and on their blog people with physical disabilities from all over the world share their experiences. The best part about it is that you hardly ever find any sympathy-seeking sob stories there. They are intelligent, evocative, well-written and inspiring stories. Personally, through this blog I have learnt a lot about a community that I understood very little about earlier. On the blog, read jbarath’s and Gidi Ahronovich’s posts.

I enjoy a couple of travel blogs. Janchipchase.com is the blog of the Nokia head of design. He captures the world with pictures and his acute ethnographic observations which others would normally miss. Then, there’s this interesting little blog of this IT sales guy from the land of Appam Chutiya who lives in Europe and blogs about his

I like Cricinfo’s Page 2. They have some funny writers on their panel. Jamie Alter, Anand Ramachandran, Andrew Hughes, Nishi Narain, George Benoy they’re all quite good. Prem Panicker’s twitter feed is another favourite and occasionally I visit ‘Cricket with Balls’.

Arnab: Who has been your favorite Knight Rider player? Who do you think shouldn’t have been in the team?

FIP: My favourite Knight Rider? Well, there are so many. I think Ishant would be right up there because, during Season 2, he embodied the term ‘Knight Rider’ in ways that it wasn’t even supposed to be interpreted. He was the true ‘Knight Rider’. With him, it didn’t end with korbo-lorbo-jeetbo.

Chris Gayle is great company. In fact, I think, Gayle and Gibbs are the funniest cricketers in the world. Although, the funniest guy one can ever spend an evening with is David Lloyd. He should have been coach of KKR, to be honest. They would have still lost all their games, but at least they would have laughed their way to the bottom of the table.

Another favourite Knight Rider would be John Buchanan’s laptop. For the whole month it kept him hypnotised like a nubile nymphet doing a strip tease. Since he was mostly distracted by the raging sexual energy of his laptop, players could afford to breathe.

Who, I think, shouldn’t have been in the team? Well, don’t we all know that the fish starts stinking from its head?

Arnab: Where does FIP go from here? Will he come back this IPL season? Tell us about the book.

FIP: My book ‘The Gamechangers’, which I have been writing for the last six months, is due for release in February 2010. It tells everything that the blog didn’t or couldn’t. I am very excited about it. About the blog, well, I still don’t know how close I will be to the action in Season 3. So, it’s a little hazy on that front.

Arnab: Do you think your book will sell more due to the buzz/controversy created by the blog? Also do you anticipate any legal actions (defamation etc) being taken against you by BCCI when you reveal yourself at the launch of the book?
FIP: I don’t know about whether the book will sell more due to the blog or not, but I know for a fact that the book would never have happened if it weren’t for the blog. If it wasn’t for the blog, the folks at Harper Collins wouldn’t have thought of me as anything more than a horse’s ass.

Arnab: Any words for your fans?

FIP: To those who followed my blog and commented on it, a big Thank you. You really kept me on my toes.

During the blogging experience, I realised how harmful public adulation can be to one’s character. Words like ‘You Rock’, ‘Genius’, ‘Dude’ can make you bloat up with pride and ego. The result is almost always a crappy post that would get the same guys to prick the balloon with a pin and cut you down to size. I think the followers of the blog balanced the bouquets and brickbats very well and my sincere thanks for the same. I hope they will support my book too.

Also, 50% of the blog’s success was due to the comments. There were many people who’d come to the blog to read the comments. Some of them were very funny.

Arnab: Thank you for your time. Here is wishing you a whole DLF maximums of Citi moments of success for Gamechangers.

Click here for a Hindi version of this interview


Partha Pratim said...

I am not surprised :)

Sunil said...

When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen....

My book tells everything that the blog didn’t | DesiPundit said...

[...] (Great Bong) interviews the Fake IPL Player at the Indibloggies. This blogger created quite a furore during the last edition of the IPL T20 series in South Africa [...]