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The new Gods

Senior players are paving way for young guns, who are emerging as the new icons, writes Sonal Srivastava.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 18:10 IST

When the ICC ratings declared Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the world’s No. 1 batsman, it was more than cricket statistics. Dhoni’s advent as a cricketing star has, after all, made its impact on popular culture too. While he is still a long, long way off from the ‘living legend’ tag, the wicketkeeperbatsman has already deposed Sachin Tendulkar as the darling of the ad world.

Companies are making a beeline to sign up cricket’s new Poster Boy. He’s already selling fans, cellphones and sneakers. Be sure there’s more to come.

Dhoni isn’t an exception. As old icons (Sachin, Sourav, Sehwag etc) give way, cricket heroes are getting younger. Young guns S. Sreesanth, Suresh Raina and Robin Uthapa are making a mark too.

Reasons ad-man Alyque Padamsee (who jokes that Dhoni’s initials stand for ‘money spinner’): “Youngsters rule the roost in any field. After all 50 per cent of India is under 25. For any brand, young ambassadors have more appeal and last longer.” No wonder, a young name like Sreesanth is sought after. Says Sanjay Kacker of Percept D’Mark: “A sports apparel and an eyewear endorsement are in the pipeline for Sreesanth.” His endorsement price has gone up by 25 percent, to any thing between Rs 35-40 lakh.

Even greenhorn Robin Uthapa flaunts a Reebok sticker on his bat.

“Robin still has a long way to go before he makes it big on the endorsement scene but he holds promise,” says Yudhajit Dutta of Gameplan, the firm that handles Dhoni’s account.

The fact that these young stars have delivered in testing times makes them saleable. Take Suresh Raina, for instance. His fine form has made it difficult for Ganguly or Laxman to return. Raina reportedly has a mega deal in the pipeline with a sportsgear giant. “The fact that the likes of Raina and Uthapa have already got good exposure in the under-19 games makes them seasoned warriors by the time they enter the mainstream,” says Dutta, who, however, has this word of caution for the brat pack:

“Too much exposure on TV can affect image. There needs to be a limit to what they endorse. Also it is vital how the youngsters are presented by the brands.”