For connoisseurs of the game, the last day of the Cape Town Test, January 6, 2011, epitomised what Test cricket is all about. Team India, faced with an insurmountable target, played out for a draw as the South African bowlers led by fire-breathing Dale Steyn hurled short-pitched deliveries at Indian ribcages.
Even as the Indian batsmen ducked and weaved, 8,000 kilometres away, some of their former teammates - Parthiv Patel, Mohammad Kaif, Murali Karthik and Irfan Pathan - walked down a makeshift ramp. It was an event to announce the launch of value retailer Big Bazaar's merchandise for the International Cricket Council or ICC World Cup. The ICC is the game's governing body.
For the 10-minute "appearance" and a 10-yard walk down the elevated platform, the cricketers would have pocketed a couple of lakh rupees each - not a fat sum, considering what cricketers make these days. But barely 48 hours later, on January 8, Delhi Daredevils picked up Irfan Pathan at an auction for the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League or IPL for Rs 8.74 crore. Within a day, the others, too, were picked by various teams for sums varying between $130,000 (Rs 58.5 lakh) and $400,000 (Rs 1.8 crore).
The great Indian cricket tamasha of 2011 kicked off in style for these cricketers. And with back-toback big-ticket tournaments, the ICC World Cup and IPL-4, lined up, it can only get better. Over $1.5 billion worth of commerce is likely to happen around these tournaments, making it the biggest year for cricket ever.
According to analysts, the bulk of this, about $1 billion, will be in the form of sponsorship revenue and TV rights for both tournaments. About Rs 1,000 crore is being spent on refurbishing stadiums in the Indian subcontinent. "In India alone - the World Cup will also be played in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - the amount spent is Rs 750 crore," says Board of Control for Cricket in India, or BCCI, Secretary N. Srinivasan. "This includes sprucing up of stadia in Chennai (Rs 180 crore), Mumbai (Rs 250 crore), New Delhi (Rs 100 crore) and Kolkata (Rs 60 crore)." A brand new stadium is being built in Nagpur for Rs 100 crore, he adds.
In return, the ICC will pay local cricket boards $750,000, (Rs 3.3 crore), for every match hosted, says Ratnakar Shetty, Tournament Director for the 2011 World Cup. "We expect over a million people to watch matches in stadiums during the World Cup," says Campbell Jamieson, General Manager, ICC. Including IPL, calculations reveal that over Rs 400 crore worth of tickets will be sold between February and July in India alone.
We hope to sell a million units of merchandise during the ICC World Cup
Sanjeev Agarwal, Joint CEO, Big Bazaar
Players are also charging a lot more. "Even younger players like Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina are asking for Rs 20 lakh to Rs 30 lakh for a short-term (year-long) brand endorsement deal. They know that with these big tournaments coming up, companies are desperate to add brand ambassadors and shoot commercials," says the CEO of an FMCG company. Industry watchers point out that in 2011 alone Indian players are expected to make upwards of Rs 100 crore in brand endorsements.
Add to this the nearly Rs 500 crore that IPL teams will pay as salaries to players, coaches, consultants, managers and you might think that cricket these days is less about runs and more about the money.