Usually, the fate of cricketers is in the hands of the opposition, umpires and selectors. But lately, the market has started to play a decisive role. On the basis of the new rating system, MS Dhoni is the uncrowned king in the sponsorship/endorsement space.
Dhoni now bats for colas/clothes, credit cards, cars and his smiling face is plastered on billboards, his advertisements air on every channel.
With his celebrity status, the pan-India appeal is hardly surprising. Dhoni is an exciting player, captain of a successful team and also a popular cool dude. Such is his calm disposition that nothing stirs him, he is completely unflustered.
Dhoni is successful and scandal free. He is the aam aadmi's hero in the Kapil Dev mould, level-headed and deeply grounded. Dhoni owns swank cars and expensive Ducattis but appears equally comfortable taking the slow local from Dadar or the Metro from Dwarka.
This head-on-the-shoulder and feet-on-ground attitude is illustrated by a teammate's comment. "I have never seen a more open, accessible captain than Dhoni - his room is always open, never has a DND on its door. Everyone is free to walk in, pick on the remote and switch channels or order room service."
Economic pundits and market analysts recognise Dhoni delivers unique commercial value.
While it is not surprising that the captain commands a hefty price tag, it is revealing that sponsors have bet on Dhoni for periods up to seven years down the line.
In today's context of burnout and fatigue, especially when stars are created and cremated in double quick time, why have canny corporates made this long-term commitment? Perhaps, they expect Dhoni to reach legendary status, like that of Sachin Tendulkar.
Not just the corporate world, cricket experts too are betting on Dhoni, retained in the IPL at a price which is not cheap.
Dhoni is the face of the team, the leader with the magical touch who won the IPL and Champions League. Also, the commercial magnet that gets deals and secures sponsorships.
As time passes, the selectors will take a call on Dhoni and his cricket. But the verdict of the market is loud and clear: Dhoni is the new don!