Is the World Cup a celebration of cricket or a crazy commercial circus? The latter, one would think considering the current frenzy of brand promotions, sponsor activity, TV shoots and endorsement spree.
For corporate India, the World Cup is another Diwali, one more opportunity to catch the spirit of festivity and celebration. That is why, not one day passes without India stars signing new deals and events organised by commercial partners to leverage the relationship. The drill at such promotions is standard: players wearing T-shirts handed out a few minutes ago, first recite the usual spiel about the honour of representing India and then speak passionately about their dream of winning the Cup. The more articulate add that they want to do it for Sachin paaji.
Sometimes, these boring choreographed media interactions throw up interesting insights. When asked to comment on the pressure of playing at home, the seasoned Virender Sehwag dismissed the question. Playing at home is a matter of pleasure, he responded. But Virat Kohli, relatively inexperienced in this game, had a different view. Asked to name one reason why favourites India may miss out, he stuttered that home pressure could play a decisive role.
Even before the IPL made cricket a hot commercial property, the romantic era when sport was a pure activity had long ended. In every major tournament, commerce is part of the deal as the event needs large investment and sponsors add value with their financial muscle. Why just sport, there is no escape from the intrusion of commerce even while staging traditional festivals.
As part of the overkill in the lead-up to the World Cup, the story of the 1983 victory has been played, replayed, repeated, remixed a million times.
We have heard first-hand accounts of the amazing turnaround after India were 17/5 against Zimbabwe; watched on a daily basis Balwinder Sandhu dismissing Gordon Greenidge and Kapil Dev's game-changing sprint to catch Viv Richards' miscued pull.
Hope India win the Cup again so that we have fresh footage and new scenes of rejoicing to view.
Till the umpires call play, the commercial circus will carry on but ultimately cricket will occupy centrestage. The World Cup is far bigger than any corporate event, it requires no promotion or push.
Nothing can match the thrill of top teams competing against each other. For those who love cricket, it is the pinnacle, the supreme challenge.