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Never-ending spectacle

Opinions may differ on whether cricket is a passion, religion or a crippling virus, but there is unanimity that it is one huge commercial carnival, writes A Mathur.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2007 22:43 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times

Opinions may differ on whether cricket is a passion, religion or a crippling virus, but there is unanimity that it is one huge commercial carnival. For us, cricket is Holi/Diwali/Id and Christmas rolled into one.

Signs of this non-stop extravaganza can be seen everywhere, most notably in the media. Newspapers carry extensive cricket stories and the recent step forward has come from television networks which run cricket programming almost 24/7.

Experts tell us that cricket is about stitching partnerships, but away from the boundary, the game is about commercial connect, about bonding with potential customers and consumers.

Cricket enables this alliance as nothing else, which is why every evening on prime time TV viewers are hit by star players promoting a host of products. As they say in Bollywood, only cricket and SRK deliver a huge opening.

Cricket's commercial presence is equally strong, but less visible, at match venues. ODI matches are a money-spinner, and centres like Mohali and Jaipur exploit cricket's commercial opportunities to the fullest. At both venues, matches are aggressively presented as entertainment events, a celebration that resembles a colourful and noisy wedding.

Punjab has a healthy, age old tradition for fun and frolic and a match at Mohali protects this reputation.

Mohali also has top of the line facilities, complete with indoor nets and outstanding dressing rooms. Moreover, unlike other centres, spectator comfort is a concern for the organisers who are keen that people go back with a positive image.

Sponsors and corporates too are smiling; corporate boxes are sold out in advance as companies invest in entertainment, hospitality and networking. Cricket today is about power, position and prestige, which is why it is okay for corporate czars and head honchos to arrive at matches in private jets, touch base with people that count and fly out.

Inevitably, this reflects the enormous commercial clout of cricket. The price of top end tickets for an India game is more than the Delhi-London airfare but demand for these remain strong, people still queue up to buy.

The atmosphere at all cricket venues is that of a noisy carnival. Spectators scream and yell and hold up exciting banners, hoping to catch the TV cameras.

The players also experience a huge kick performing in these conditions. Corporate houses that invest money are happy and the BCCI is busy collecting the cash pouring in.

First Published: Nov 11, 2007 22:37 IST