India: the cheerleader who went too far

MUMBAI, India — A beautiful blonde South African cheerleader came to India, dazzled cricket fans with her glamorous looks and fancy moves, and partied with the players after games. But then, and here was her fatal flaw, she blogged about it.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) reportedly fired the young woman, Gabriella Pasqualotto, and sent her back to South Africa this week after it became known that she was the anonymous writer of a blog detailing cricket after-parties.

The blog, called “The Secret Diary of an IPL Cheerleader,” appears on The Alternative Cricket Almanack website and tells of the parties after matches where “the music pumps, the drinks flow and the cricketers come and go.”

Pasqualotto, who cheered for the Mumbai Indians, writes in her blog, “cricketers are the most loose and mischievious sportsmen I have come across,” and names a few “naughty” Australian players.

The young woman’s blog sheds light on not just what the stars do behind closed doors but also how India’s cheerleaders — virtually all attractive, voluptuous white women in scantily clad outfits — are treated by fans.

“We are practically like walking porn!” she writes. “The men see your face, then your boobs, your butt, and then your boobs again! As we walk, all you hear is ‘IPL, IPL!’ with a little head jingle!”

The IPL, a professional league for Twenty20 cricket competition, began importing foreign women to work as cheerleaders when the league started in 2008 in a deliberate attempt to create a spectacle and attract fans to the games, say Indian cricket journalists.

Cheerleaders are a “gimmick” meant to bring glamour to the games for both the crowds and the television audience, said Udita Dutta, a special correspondent at Star News who covers cricket.

The cheerleaders have become so popular that they are a main reason many young, urban men attend the IPL games, according to Yahoo! Cricket columnist Venkat Ananth.

“The cricket is a coincidence,” he said. “It’s not the major attraction.”

Indian women do not sign up to be cheerleaders because their families and communities would not be accepting, said Prem Panicker, the managing editor of Yahoo! India who has covered cricket for 15 years.

Cheerleaders are associated with bar girls, he said, and men tend to disrespect cheerleaders.

“It’s a damn good thing that these women are imported because at least they don’t hear the stuff that’s thrown at them in the vernacular,” he said. Pasqualotto “would drop dead in shock if she understood what was being said about her.”

The cricket journalists said it is not surprising that cricket players are partying with the cheerleaders. What has upset the IPL, they said, is that a woman went public with the details.

“It’s not unusual that a lot of these things are happening, but when they are leaked into the public domain, a lot of people get nervous,” said Ananth.

The IPL does not want a controversy, Panicker said, “and if you’re the kind who talks about it, then you’re out.”

The IPL did not respond to a request for comment.

Pasqualotto, the cheerleader who has been kicked out of India, has not been silenced. She has taken her voice to Twitter, @IPLgirl, where she has picked up thousands of followers.

She responds to one such follower: “I enjoyed India and its people alot. The crowd seemed to love us cheer girls :)”

Follow Hanna on Twitter: @HannaIngber