Though the Sahara India Pariwar and Bharti Telecom, the two bidders for the rights to be the title sponsors of the India team for the next three-and-a-half years, offered to empty their coffers for the senior team, they completely ignored the women’s team and the two developmental squads of the men’s team.
For the first time, while inviting bids for the men’s team’s title sponsorship, the BCCI had also floated tenders for India ‘A’, India under-19 and the national women’s team.
However, neither Sahara nor Bharti showed any interest in any of the other three teams. And it didn’t come as a surprise to the BCCI officials.
“These valuations are all based on the kind of television coverage you get. The business houses see the returns in that,” Ratnakar Shetty, BCCI’s chief administrative officer, said. “Since the under-19 and the India ‘A’ teams hardly get any television coverage, it wasn’t so much of a surprise.”
However, Shetty was a tad disappointed with the sponsors ignoring the women’s team, which made it to the semifinals of the last two World Twenty20 championships.
“I thought at least for women’s cricket, with the team doing so well in the last two international events, there should have been some support. Nevertheless, the Board will keep on looking for sponsors on a tour-by-tour basis,” Shetty said.
Despite Shetty’s optimism, former women’s team skipper Diana Eduljee was stunned by Monday’s events. “It’s come as a shock to me,” Eduljee said. “When women’s cricket used to be governed by the WCAI (Women Cricketers’ Association of India), Sahara was the only organisation that always supported the team. Subrata Roy himself is a keen follower of women’s cricket. I am not sure if he didn’t know or wasn’t informed. I would personally request him not to ignore the women’s team.”
Pravin Amre, who will accompany the India ‘A’ team as coach for their tour to England, saw the positive side of it.
“At least the Board has started to create awareness about the developmental squads. In the coming years, the importance of the U-19 and India ‘A’ teams will increase and will hopefully also attract television viewers and sponsors.”