The undisputed & far-reaching effects of cricket.

Updated on Oct 01, 2007 11:04 PM IST

Joginder Sharma, a relative unknown even on the domestic circuit, cricket picked him up and made him a national hero, writes Amrit Mathur.

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None | ByAmrit Mathur

Two unrelated recent events demonstrate the enormous power of cricket in India. First, the amazing tale of Joginder Sharma. A relative unknown even on the domestic circuit, cricket picked him up and made him a national hero.

He bowled less than 15 overs in 15 days but Joginder earned a staggering 1.5 crores. Today, he is busy collecting awards and attending public receptions. In future, and this is harsh reality, he may not play for India.

Also, look at the windfall for hockey players who received cash awards and promotions after they protested the unfair hand dealt to them, especially when compared to the cricket stars. Their justified grouse spurred various sponsors, employers and governments to make amends, but this lottery would not have been possible without cricket.

The relentless spiel about cricket being a religion is debatable but there is no doubt we are cricket obsessed, the sport has a strong hold over the lives of Indians.

Cricket in our country has, as marketing gurus like to remind us, irresistible appeal because it delivers incredible numbers, eyeballs and potential consumers.

Basic to cricket's popularity is the connect. More than films, Vividh Bharti, Doordarshan, STD booths, mobile telephone companies, cricket unites India and is the ultimate network — never out of reach.

But it is not just a matter of numbers, there is an emotional angle too to cricket's appeal. The Twenty20 win triggered an unprecedented national celebration, it was Diwali/Id and 15th August all rolled into one.

The victory lifted the morale of the country, spread a feeling of well-being across the nation and made India truly shine. Mumbai stopped moving (so described by Dhoni) but India, in a figure of speaking, was up and running as never before.

No wonder cricket is equated with national interest. On this argument rests a law that has private TV networks share their programming (purchased at steep prices through competitive bidding) with Prasar Bharti. The cricket team, therefore, belongs to the country, and matches featuring them must be available to all citizens.

That cricket is a colossal money-spinner is well documented. As a national icon, Sachin is in the same class as AB (the filmi Don) and SRK (the unofficial brand ambassador of Indian sport).

Cricket generates large sponsorships, every property offered for sale is instantly snapped up, and the rates climb quicker than a galloping Sensex.

But more than the crores, and the impressive zeroes in the balance sheet, cricket's strength is its power, its phenomenal clout and influence.

Dhoni, not long ago, was just another popular player; today he is among the most well known Indians. Cricket created Dhoni and in a twisted manner this proves the old saying about the game being bigger than all players put together. Tomorrow, cricket may convert a Cheteshwar Pujara or Mayank Tehlan or someone else into the next icon.

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