The commerce of blood
July 23, 2010 2 Comments
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.