WHILE THE Redskins' front office was quietly trying to convince Cincinnati to deal Chad Johnson, the team's cheerleaders were focusing their powers of persuasion on a different target: Indian cricket fans. Twelve cheerleaders in hot pants and go-go boots were in Bangalore, shaking their pom-poms at 55,000 people as part of the Indian Premier League's attempt to change the sport's stodgy reputation. The women also mentored novice Indian cheerleaders.
It was a radical idea, given India's conservative culture. (Last year Richard Gere was nearly arrested for publicly kissing a Bollywood starlet.) An official in Mumbai last week declared cheerleaders "crude and vulgar" and raised the possibility of banning them. But the women have been a hit with the fans. "Sexuality and cricket is the way forward," a (male) Indian sports historian told The Washington Post, "and it's time India wakes up to the fact that it's a modern society." Another excitedly decreed, "The cheerleaders are heroes in their ability to make people excited." Mahatma who?