Anup, ICL... quite an eventful week
Akshay Sawai sums up some important sporting highlights and events of the week.india Updated: Jan 09, 2008 11:48 IST
A lot happened in sport this week. As I sit to write this in my suite at the Burj al-Arab (I’m actually in my office in Mahim, but no harm imagining), I feel like a man at a huge buffet. Like him, I’m tempted to nibble on everything that’s on offer instead of committing to one variety. Besides, it gives me an excuse to avoid an in-depth, and tougher, piece.
So plate, come here. Pen, come here. Let’s hit it.
First stop, the Anup Sridhar counter: Anup’s entry into the World badminton quarterfinals was the story of the week for Indian sport. Of course, sponsors will refuse to see this because he doesn’t offer an ‘ROI (Return on Investment)’. More on that later. For now, it’s kudos to Anup. Defeating Taufik Hidayat (2004 Olympic gold medallist) and Muhd Hafiz B Hasim (2003 All England champion) confirms the ability of the six feet one inch 24-year-old. What’s more, he is a bit of a loose cannon Goran Ivanisevic style. It peppers his personality. Sponsors, have a broad mind. Do look at newer "properties."
Stop two, the ICL counter (long queue here): Agent whispers to fringe Indian cricketer: ‘ICL’. Fringe Indian cricketer whispers back to agent: "I See Money."
Worried Board member says to equally worried Board member: "ICL."
Equally worried Board member says, "I See Hell."
When it was announced, it seemed like Subhash Chandra had bitten off more than he could chew in a rush of blood moment. Now it’s gathered steam. The money that the ICL is offering players is a lot, and you realize why so many are hopping on to the gravy train. If an Ambati Rayudu can earn Rs 1.2 crore in three years – let’s face it, he’s not going to turn it down.
The situation is comparable to Mumbai’s media boom of 2005. New newspapers entered the market, offered huge salaries and forced old budgets, and mindsets, to change. That’s what the Board will have to do as well. Sports fans are in for a treat. It’s going to be fascinating to see not only how the ICL shapes up but also how the Board responds to it.
The sports marketing counter: I attended a sports marketing forum in the city on Friday. “Show me the money!” well-wishers of non-cricket sport in India implored below their breaths. “Why?” the corporate types said. “We don’t get much in return,” they said. Alright, they did seem willing to invest small sums into other sports. But no one said, “You know what, for the next five years, we won’t worry about the eyeballs or the bottomline. We’ll just invest in an Olympic sport."
This is always a touchy subject. And finally, however disheartened you feel at the disparity in Indian sport, it’s a company’s call what to do with it’s money. To look at the glass half full, there are firms like Apollo, who have committed to a tennis project, Mahindras, who are active in football, and Tatas, who for many years have had time for sports. My only point is if we’ve decided to invest only in that sport, face or Americanised accent that sells, we should be prepared for status quo to continue and stop having too many expectations from our athletes. If we do want Indians to win Olympic gold medals, the approach will have to change and bottomlines will have to be put on the backburner, if not forgotten.
The Steven Gerrard counter: Liverpool main man Steven Gerrard has a hairline toe fracture. Yet, he will play this evening’s Premier League match against Chelsea, with the help, of course, of a painkilling injection. He will miss, instead, England’s friendly against Germany on Wednesday. Good thing Gerrard does not ply his trade in India. People and media would have raised a hue and cry. They would have questioned his patriotism and condemned him for putting club over country.