NEW DELHI – The foreign cheerleaders were brought in to show India's cricket fans how to shake their pompoms — but not everyone was impressed.
The New Delhi team said Wednesday it was switching its cheerleaders for a band of drummers. Mumbai politicians have forced theirs to cover up, saying their performances were lewd and not appropriate for India's traditional culture.
The cheerleaders were flown in to give a touch of glamor to the Indian Premier League — a newly launched cricket tournament that brings together the sport's biggest international stars, million-dollar (euro) contracts, big business and celebrities.
Cricket in its purest form is a serene game that lasts five days and is played by men in white who take breaks for tea.
But the Indian Premier League presents a flashy, rapid-fire version that is played in just five hours under floodlights with players in colorful uniforms.
The league has been posited as a celebration of the new India: brash, confident, cosmopolitan and rolling in money from a decade-long economic boom.
Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya flew in the Washington Redskins American football team's cheerleaders to boost his team, which he named after one of his whiskeys — the Bangalore Royal Challengers. Other team owners flew in troops of dancing beauties from Eastern Europe.
For a brief moment all was good. They whirled and bounced and cheered. Miniskirts flared and pompoms shook as cricket players batted balls out of the park.
But it was all too much for the other India — a deeply conservative country where public displays of sexuality are taboo and women are expected to dress modestly.
The backlash began in Mumbai last week when lawmakers from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party pressed to get cheerleaders banned from the home games of the local team, the Mumbai Indians.
"See the pictures of these girls in the newspapers? This is not something you can allow inside your house, or something that you can look at in the presence of your sister or daughter," said Nitin Gadkari, the Bharatiya Janata Party's president for the state of Maharashtra. Mumbai is its capital.
"It may be a good thing for America, for the U.S.A., it's not a good thing for India, for our kind of culture," Gadkari said.
Police vowed to keep scantily clad dancers out of public view.
"We will take action," said Mumbai police officer Ramrao Wagh. "The government has said it will not allow obscenities on the field." He did not elaborate.
In the end a compromise of sorts was reached.
The away team cheerleaders still wore their tartan miniskirts — but they donned black full-body stockings underneath. The Mumbai dancers wore flowing, ankle-length blue pants.
Despite calls to several of the teams, the cheerleaders could not be reached for comment.
On Wednesday, in an apparent effort to avoid a similar confrontation, the owners of the Delhi Daredevils cricket team said they would replace the cheerleaders at the next game with a troop of traditional drummers.
Shriram Ramdas, a spokesman for the GMR group — the construction company that owns the Daredevils — denied that they had come under pressure to drop the foreign dancers.
He declined to explain the decision, except to say the group wanted "to experiment with different forms of entertainment."
"Who knows? Maybe next season we will have a group of our own cheerleaders from the city," he said.
Presumably, they won't be wearing hot pants.