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.
We hope to sell a million units of merchandise during the ICC World Cup
Sanjeev Agarwal, Joint CEO, Big Bazaar