The commerce of blood

Circa 1989, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar walked out  at No. 6 on National Stadium Karachi to a “welcoming poster” – Sachin Go Home and Have Milk.

The boy wonder who had a fairytale ride into the Indian team (His brother had to sign the contract with BCCI as he was below 18, the minimum age required for entering into contractual obligation) didn’t have an icing on the cake by making a century on debut. But in scoring the 35 odd runs that he did  taking on the 2 Ws and Imran he gave enough indication of his talent and class. And in the process, he spilled the first blood for India.

21 years later, Sachin’s blood is again in the news.  Sachin who is now “donating” blood to create a unique limited edition product, a book, few copies of which will be dyed with his blood.

The wheel has come around for Sachin and his transition is complete. From a brave, gritty and talented  cricketer he has now added qualifications of being a savvy marketeer.

Mind you, I am not in the least blaming Sachin for this “brilliant” germ of thought , but in agreeing to donate blood for this “noble cause” of peddling the limited editions of his book at  $75000 a piece, Sachin may have started the process of squeezing the last ounces of commercialism out of his cricket.

As I have “called out” in my ‘About’ page, I am not the greatest fan of Sachin.  It is a very unpopular view, I admit and many may question my ‘knowledge of the game’ to hold certain views about the demi-god of cricket.

Sachin is a good cricketer, a very good one at that. I have no qualms but I always felt that he didn’t quite do justice to his talent. He should have won more matches or at the least saved more matches for India. But this isn’t about his cricket as much as it is about the shroud of commerce that has engulfed Indian cricket.

That Indians are cricket crazy is saying the obvious.  The easiest testimony in my view could be provided by organizing a Zimbabwe versus Kenya match in any part of India, even a second eleven would do.  Crowds would throng the stadium with Arun Lals and Laxman Sivaramakrishnans in tow to provide “expert” commentary.

The day Ishant Sharma, rookie and fresh from a few overs of hostile bowling on Perth, was bought nearly for a million dollars much more a Ricky Ponting signaled the commercial potential of Indian cricketers.

Remember Robin Uthappa ?

The ‘pandi curry’ loving Coorg is now a rich man, what if he doesn’t figure in international matches. So what does he do the other 11 months when IPL is not in town ?

Simple. He can pose as much as he want promoting toothpaste to tyres, pin to piano and continue making a damn good living. And even if he is anywhere one-tenth as successful as Sachin, he can have his biography written and some more through Penguin.

I don’t think the day is far when the next-generation cricketers, even if they don’t clear High School would master ‘Philip Kotler’ thoroughly and learn how to market themselves.

The commercial success and the riches of Indian cricketers across the board is certainly the envy of many.  It is somehow unacceptable to me that Ishant Sharma’s wealth will be substantially more than that of Freddie Flintoff and Bret Lee who gave their hearts out for their countries. Who can ever forget their ‘brother-in-arms’ poster at Leeds (Ashes 2005) after the last wicket was snapped in a nail-biting finish.

This isn’t so much so about wealth per se but it is about “undeserving wealth”. I wouldn’t begrude the riches of Ishant Sharma, should he, for example emulate a Salil Ankola and act in movies prancing around trees.  The catalyst of his wealth generating prowess is his over-rated cricketing abilities which is absolutely nauseating.

Except Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Dhoni and Sehwag, this team is quite mediocre.  It serves the commercial interests of both BCCI and the cricketers themselves to keep their ‘No 1Test ranking’ tag as long as possible. So every trick in the book is tried to play series at home or ‘near-home’ conditions like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

As long as India continues to be an over-rated side, the cricketers can continue to be over-paid.  The frenzy is only going to get worse with the World cup 2011 in anvil.

From spilling blood on the cricketing field for the sake of the game to using blood as a marketing gimmick, the commerce of Indian cricket has indeed come a very long way.

About hariharanbond
I am who I am !

2 Responses to The commerce of blood

  1. Ganesh Kini says:

    Hari,

    This one tempted me to comment.

    We should look at this scenario on overall perspective. Whether it is sports or any other area, it’s only natural that people make most out of the opportunity. It would be only naive to expect people to remain modest.
    You are comparing Ishant Sharma, Robbin Uttappa with Freddie and Ponting, Have you ever thought howmuch our world cup champ team members in 1975 were earning compared to the incomes of then English or Australian cricketers? I am sure K.Srikant’s pay would have been much lesser than the 12th man of Australia or England ( I doubt whether any of us can even recollect the name).

    The earning potential is equal to the love or madness for the game / event. A spanish bull figther earns thousands of dollars, whereas similarly risky winners of mud race with bullock in our villages may hardly earn few thousand rupees. So should we call it injustice?
    Sumo fighters in Japan are heroes and are again paid handsomely. What about our KUSTI experts? no wonder Praveen Kumar chose cricket over Kusti.
    Shah Rukh earns crores for appearance/commercials, even the ROOKIE actors may earn lakhs, but best actors from Drama schools/ or our greatly talented folf artists are struggling in making a decent living. So is that injustice too?

    Now every country is wailing about BCCI’s power in cricket and its influence on decision making. Does anyone remember earlier all decision were in favour of australia and nobody were fretting on that. It was evident in most of the matches that penalties were harsh on opposite sides and mild or no penalties for Australian players. No other countries except the affected country raised thier voice.

    I am not in favour or returning the favour, but we should be realistic enough that its only naive to expect people to not make use of the opportunity or expect people to be ideal/modest/god figure.

    If sachin is getting money for his own blood or Ishant is getting paid for product promotion who is losing / what harm is caused to the society? Are we trying to decide moral correctness?

    Its life. When opportunity is there, people do exploit it. If there is no harm caused to others while doing so, whats the problem?

    • Ganesh,

      I agree to some of your points. Certainly i am not begrudging the riches of the modern day cricketers from the point of morality.

      Your point about the cricketers of yesteryears, actually, proves my point.

      Cricket for the stars of yesteryears was a labour of love. After years of performance (at national & international level), there are many cricketers who lived and died in abject penury.

      My point is that the riches of the modern day cricketers is fundamentally because of the game. But when they allow the money to take predominance so far as their focus is concerned, it impairs their performance on their field.

      Especially the young cricketers of the modern era dont seem to be having a mature head on their shoulder. They take themselves far too seriously than they should be and in the process lose focus on their game.

      Longetivity in my view is the forte of the cricketer. Already the modern day cricketer is a pale shadow of the greats who lasted couple of decades.

      Where Ishant was in the last Aussie series and where is he now ? Do you call that progress ?

      My argument is that when one is showered with ‘undeserving earnings’ the rot sets sooner than later.

      Specifically my point is about how cricketers view the game as an entry point for their commercial success rather than seeing that as a auxiliary benefit.

      Especially i didnt expect Sachin to accept to suggestions of using his blood to create a USP. As such any book on him would sell like hot cakes so i am disappointed that he looked to cash in on greater commercial success stroking emotions through his blood.

      Thanks for your views and do visit as often as possible.

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