His favourite one-liner is “I am what i am” and at 26, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India’s Twenty20 World Cup-winning and ODI captain, is already the most expensive cricketer in the world—he was “bought” by the Chennai Super Kings, owned by India Cements at the Indian Premier League (IPL) player auction recently for $1.5 million (Rs 6 crore).
It isn’t just cricketing skills that explains his price. The boy next door from Ranchi has already become a style icon (The MTV Youth Icon Award in 2006 is just a recognition of that). His manager, Jeet Banerjee, Director, Gameplan Sports, says: “The way he is playing, the way he is leading the side, the way he is carrying himself and many more factors are contributing to his brand positioning.”
India’s ODI captain is already associated with brands like Reebok, GE Money, Pepsi, Royal Stag, Reliance Mobile and Bharat Petroleum, among others. He is believed to be endorsing as many as 21 different brands at an annual fee of Rs 1 crore each.
And many more are padding up to sign him up. And why not? His goal in life is to win the ODI World Cup, improve India’s Test record—though he’s not yet the Test captain—and take the team close to, and past, world champions Australia. Mahi, as he is affectionately called, attracts attention because of his maturity and aggression on the field as well as for the flamboyance he displays off it. So, will his IPL price lead to an increase in his endorsement fee? “Being the most expensive cricketer (in the world) will obviously have a rub-off,” says Banerjee. That means happier days are in store for Mahi.
— Ritwik Mukherjee