Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Business of Cricket

We eat cricket, we drink cricket, we even sleep cricket - in short, we Indians are fanatics when the game of cricket is concerned just like our neighbors Pakistan. When I say fanatic, it is because we put up our cricketers on high pedestals when they win matches, but when the same people lose any match only God can save them and their families from the wrath of their so called fans.

One good example of this treatment is the ongoing Cricket World Cup। When the World Cup started, the Indian team was praised to the sky and people expected them to win all matches or at least enough matches to bring home the cup. Songs were made in their honor and programmes launched to cover all aspects of the game. Mandira Bedi was once again called and there was a special coverage given to her and a lot of speculations were made as to what kind of dresses would she be wearing this time round. In short, a lot of advertising money was at stake.

So when India made an exit in the first round, it came as a big blow now only to these advertising companies who were doomed but the country as such went into the shock mode। People started their usual procedure of pelting stones on to the houses of the cricketing greats. The same players who were praised no end and who in people's eyes could do no wrong. But now suddenly people found fault with everything, especially the amount of money these players were making with their endorsements. And decisions have been made to curb these with rules like players can't do more than three advertisements and all the deals had to go through the already ultra rich BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India). This decision I feel is funny and surprising since unless these players play well none of the companies would be interested in making them their brand ambassadors.

Why do we take this game so personally, probably because most of the male species play cricket at some point or the other in their lives? And they tend to idealize these players when they are playing well। But can we expect them to win all the matches? Don't the players themselves know the out come of a loss and want to win these matches? The game is so full of uncertainty that any team can win or loose on a given day.

No matter what some fans have to say, I really believe that no matter how much money these players make, the players go into the field to win। The first and foremost priority of these players is to be in form, since if they are out of form or not playing well it is their primary career at stake. The career that not only gives them these endorsement deals but also brings in fame, respect and adulation just like the Bollywood stars and in some cases even more than the movie stars.

The only saving grace for the Indians players this time round I guess was the fact that Pakistan team went out of the tournament before them। I am terrified to think what would have happened if Pakistan had gone further into the next round. For that matter if India had gone ahead while Pakistan went out in the first round, would have spelled a fate worse than anything the Pakistani players have faced so far. The reaction from their fans back home would have been worse than what was meted out to them.

All said and done given time these volatile fans all forget the blow to their dreams and go back to loving these cricketers। To appease the fans this time round, BCCI not only brought in the new rule of curbing their income but pretended to sacrificed couple of senior players in the form of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the upcoming one dayers against Bangladesh। Pretend because they have been retained in the test side. The captain continues without any repercussions just like the coach who has stepped aside on the completion of his term.

So in the end I guess the real losers were the corporate world who invested a whole lot of their money in promoting the team and advertising in the matches and the advertising media too especially bore the brunt with India's world cup departure. But for the rest the janatha (public) life goes back to normal even though the curtain for the world cup is just coming down.