Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Cricket As Commerce

Updated: March 5, 2011 5:32 pm

Cricket World Cup fever has gripped the country and most of the experts, while declaring it as the most open tournament in its 36-year-old history, have expressed the view that India has an edge to regain the title which it had won way back in 1983. For the 42-day long tournament, to be commercially viable and vibrant it is important that India and to some extent Pakistan and Sri Lanka survive till the knock-out stages.

                Four years ago in the Caribbean, things did not go as per the script and expected lines. India and Pakistan crashed out in the preliminary stages of the competition, as they were stunned by minnows Bangladesh and Ireland respectively and the whole World Cup collapsed (financially and commercially). The International Cricket Council (ICC) seemed to have learnt the lesson. And this time for the 10th edition, it has reverted to the old format which will see these two teams along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh playing their full quota six league matches each even if they do not make the next round, thus ensuring that spectators interest remains alive in the subcontinent.

                Adding to the excitement is the format where teams face sudden-death after the preliminary league. “I will not be honest if I say ‘no’,” World Cup Director Ratnakar Shetty said when quizzed that the format had been designed to favour teams like India and Pakistan.

                “Economically, we all know that India is the financial powerhouse of cricket,” Shetty added the obvious. The four top sides from each group will advance to the quarter-finals. India are using eight Test venues for their 29 matches, Sri Lanka’s 12 matches will be held at three venues, including two brand new 25,000-seater stadia in Pallekele near the hill resort of Kandy and Hambantota in the deep south.

                The eight games in Bangladesh will be played at the Sher-e-Bangla cricket stadium in Mirpur on the outskirts of Dhaka and the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium in Chittagong.

                Most of the former “legends” of the game have set up their base in India and they will be flying all over to give their expert views and in the return will be pocketing hefty fee. Most of them will be earning more money in these six weeks than what they had made during their playing days.

                Apart from these “legends”, other retired, semi-retired, banned and disgraced cricketers are also eyeing the “big money” from the Indian media (print and visual) and various other corporate houses, which are sponsoring this mega event.

                Salman Butt, who has just been banned by ICC for ten years on the charges of spot-fixing, is hoping that he will get a chance to comment on the matches and give his “expert opinion”. Former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan, now an active politician known for his anti-India rhetoric’s, feels that India has a good chance of winning the title. He has even supported ICC’s tough decision to ban three Pakistani players—Salman Butt, Mohd Asif and Aamir—on spot-fixing charges.

                Section of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which had blamed BCCI and Indian government for depriving them the right to host matches have reconciled to the situation and is hoping for a bigger share of money. Even Sri Lanka and Bangladesh realise that it is the financial power of the BCCI, which is driving the World Cup at such fast-paced speed and they are also fully cooperating with the Indian board.

                The Stakes (financial) are very high as one report mentions that in the case of India making it to the knock-out stage, the rates for 10 sec slot for advertisement on television channel showing the matches will increase by 50 to 75 per cent and if they make it to the final, then rates will hit the roof.

                Having seen how disaster struck the World Cup after the early exit of India and Pakistan last time, the “legends” and others have started building up the hype for India. And they back it up with statistics and their own “knowledge” of the game. Former Australia Captain Ian Chappell, whose brother Greg was responsible for Indian debacle in West Indies feels that India, Sri Lanka, England, South Africa and Australia are main contenders this time.

                “Unlike the 2007 tournament, where it was simply a matter of: ‘Who’ll meet Australia in the final?’ this time the defending champions are not favourites,” Chappell wrote in a column. With the unpredictable, but talented, Pakistanis also in the mix alongside two-time champion West Indies and New Zealand, the race for the title is wide open.

                Who is left—one may be tempted to ask: Bangladesh, Ireland, Canada, Kenya and Zimbabwe and pray: why leave them? Bangladesh and Ireland turned the 2007 World Cup upside down; Zimbabwe has twice beaten India in the World Cup and has also accounted for Australia.

                However everybody knows that any of these teams making it to the knock-out stage will not be good for the financial health of the tournament and if by chance two of the minnows make it to that stage, it will be a financial catastrophic. “This could be anyone’s tournament,” Kepil Dev, who led India to its only World Cup-win so far has been quoted by the media as saying: “The conditions will favour teams from the subcontinent, but don’t write off other sides. They have all played enough in this part of the world to know what awaits them.”

                But Kapil, now a very successful businessman, also knows that Cricket World Cup is unlike any other international sporting tournament. It is not like Football World Cup, which can survive without Brazil, Argentina or England—like what happened in South Africa last year.

                Interestingly Cricket World Cup in 2003 in South Africa turned out to be financial success because India made it to the final, though the hosts failed to make it to even the last four. Sourav Ganguly captain of the 2003 team feels that India has a very good chance of winning the title but he warned against complacency. This time the ICC have pumped in lot of money with a prize money of eight million dollars, which is in itself a record. It is an increase of three million dollars from the previous 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, which itself was a five-fold increase from the 1999 edition in England.

                In the first edition of the World Cup in 1975, West Indies led by Clive Lloyd’s received a cheque of 4,000 pounds for winning the title, and four years later when they again won, they earned 10,000 pounds. Four years later in 1983 unexpected happened and the World cricket changed forever. Indian team was quoted 66:1 by bookies before the start of the third World Cup. Kapil Dev’s boys survived Zimbabwe scare, Australia thrashing and then went on to create upsets including group win over West Indies and semi-final victory over England and cruised into finals.

                25th June 1983: Lords was jam-packed for the title clash between India and West Indies. This final saw more attendance than the past two finals. For winning the title India earned as 20,000 pounds, Mohinder Amarnath received 600 pounds for being the Man of the Match. India not only won the trophy but changed the whole script as the BCCI successfully made bid for the 1987 edition of the Cup along with Pakistan offering the amount of prize money, which the MCC and ICC could not even dream of.

                Apart from the prize money, the officials of the ICC and other boards were offered such a lavish hospitality which they had never ever experienced before and rest as they say is history. In 2007, winners Australia received 2.2 million dollars, while losing finalists Sri Lanka earned one million dollars. This time in Mumbai on April 2, the winner of this edition will earn three million dollars and the runners up 1.5 million dollars. In addition the winners of each first round match will get 30,000 dollars, the champions will earn another 180,000 dollars if they win all their six preliminary games.

                The two losing semi-finalists will go home with 500,000 dollars each, while teams losing in quarter-final stage will get 250,000 dollars each. Apart from this ICC will also provide share of the profits to all the 14 participating teams from its joint revenue pool.

                Former BCCI Chief Inderjit Bindra, who played a crucial role in wining the bid for this Edition of the Cup admitted that the subcontinent thwarted a joint bid by Australia and New Zealand by offering higher profits and prize money.

                “We assured them a profit of 400 million dollars,” Bindra, disclosed adding: “No one can make money for cricket as India can.” Point taken. The ICC’s expected expenditure is around 45 to 50 million dollars and it hopes to make huge profits, Cricket, with just 10 full member nations, is no match for football’s money power where the total prize money was staggering 420 million dollars for the last World Cup in South Africa.

                But where does Cricket World Cup stands as compared to other global sports events as far as prize money is concerned:

The Champions League

Europe’s biggest and glitziest, football tournament offers the club winning the Champions League final $170 million in prize money. The runners up get $60 million.

The Dubai World Cup Night

The Dubai World Cup Night is officially the richest event in thoroughbred racing, with around $22 million in prize money available during this single day thoroughbred race meeting.

The US Open

The US Open is the highest paying tennis tournament in the world, with over $20 million in prize money shared between the winners of the various divisions. Players in the men’s and women’s singles divisions are able to earn up to $2.4 million, if they win the tournament as well a selection of tune-up events.

Boxing

Boxing is one of the most lucrative sports in the world, with World Championship title fights turning contestants into instant millionaires. Oscar de La Hoya, the world’s highest paid boxer can earn anywhere between $30-$50 million per fight, although only a fraction of this payout is prize money, with the rest of the payout generated by broadcasting rights deals and appearance fees.

FedEx Cup

Golf’s richest event—the PGA Tour’s season finale, the FedEx Cup. The highest points scorer at the conclusion of the Tour Championship earns $10 million payout. Wins achieved at any of the playoffs can add additional millions to the FedEx Cup winner’s purse.

                However the fact is that cricket is great pastime of around 1 billion people living in one of the world’s emerging financial superpowers. Indian team is among the highest paid national sports team in the world, with many players now supplementing their incomes to the tune of a couple of million dollars per month. ESPN-Star Sports network, which has reportedly paid a billion dollars to be the ICC’s official broadcasters from 2007 to 2015, are confident of making profits.

                “There is nothing bigger in the world of cricket than the World Cup and when it is held in the subcontinent it evokes passion and excitement like none other,” said the network’s managing director Manu Sawhney. “We have not only roped in several big sponsors like Pepsi, Sony, Nokia, Maruti Suzuki and Philips, but have received a positive feedback from other advertisers.”

                For Bangladesh, which is hosting the world level event for the first time in their history, it is a grand opportunity to showcase its potential. According to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina the World Cup will open up new opportunities for branding the country and highlighting its positive image before the international community.

                “In the present world perspective, sports are not a mere entertainment rather they help branding a country. The social and economic conditions of the country will be consolidated, if Bangladesh can be branded through the World Cup cricket,” she said.

                “Once, we will be able to win the Cricket World Cup if the payers could continue the trend of their success,” she hoped. The government has spent Taka 350.8 million for development of Bangabandhu Stadium, Taka 785 million for Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, Taka 628 million for Fatulla Khan Shaheb Osman Stadium, Taka 712.8 million for Zahur Ahmed Stadium in Chittagong and Taka 564.7 million for Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium in Khulna. A total of Taka 4.0 billion has been allocated for the renovation of the stadia,” she said and asked the authorities concerned for properly maintaining the stadia after the Cricket World Cup.

                The Sri Lankan government has also spent huge amount of money on renovating and building new stadia and hope that success of the home team will bring back some money immediately.

                Be it as may be, for the next six weeks the millions in the subcontinent will be glued to their TV sets watching the matches, thousands will be in the stadia cheering their teams and thousands will be laughing their way to the banks.

By Harpal Singh Bedi

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