Thursday, April 7, 2011

Champions on the field!

Intrigued by the headline? The different faces of India are fodder for our columnist this week.

If the sponsors and organisers of the Cricket World Cup 2011 had drawn up a wish list before the impressive opening ceremony at Dhaka, the list might well have included:

Teams from the subcontinent in the last four (well, three of the last four were from the subcontinent)

India beating Australia in the knock-out (ideally it could have been the semi-final but I am not complaining).

India knocking out Pakistan from the tournament (Who cares even if the match did not have the normal high quality associated with Indo-Pak encounters?) Do you remember the Bandaid commercial where the kid shouts “match to jeet gaya!”

There would be a few close matches (we even had a tie! Can you believe it ?)

Sachin should be tantalisingly and intriguingly placed on 99 international centuries when he enters Wankhede for the final after being one of the highest run scorers of the tournament

A single Indian player, Yuvraj, would win no less than four Man of the Match awards.

If you look at all that has happened in the World Cup for India and the subcontinent, it is a dream come true and the sponsors and the organisers must be laughing all the way to the bank, not to mention some black marketers who made a killing, in the India matches at least.

Not surprisingly the sponsors had the good sense to schedule most India games over the weekends. The TRPs kept soaring from match to match and viewership was at a record high as the nation held its breath and 1.21 billion people forgot everything except that fantastic piece of silver which India has not had the chance to display at the BCCI since the magical moment at Lord's , a small matter of 28 years ago.

Obituary written too soon

Thanks to their preoccupation with the shortest version of the game, a number of experts genuinely got it wrong and predicted the end of the 50-over format. The BCCI was largely to blame for this as we kept playing matches with Sri Lanka every second day.

The possible risk in this strategy (?) could be evidenced on Saturday as India holds no terrors for our island friends who know our players and their preferences like the back of their own hands. But an entertainment-starved country like this has continued to lap up the one-day version (which started as an accident in Melbourne after an Ashes match was rained off and has come to stay).

Certainly it had to improve, having been started in a rollicking fashion by the flashing blades of Geoffrey Boycott and William Morris Lawry. It could only improve in interest and it certainly did, aided and abetted by the Kerry Packers of the world.

Living up to the hype

One of the biggest challenges that brands, movies and events face is the inability to live up to the hype that precedes them. We had a similar scenario in 2007 when India failed to make it to any stage and the team managed to only make it to the airport to catch their return flight back home with their collective tail between their legs and there I was with a host of my friends at Barbados landing up in Bermudas and India T-shirt for the wrong party!

There were no such hiccups this time as India willed its team on. The team, after some initial hiccups, made it to the finals on the strength of its superior batting ability and the consistency of the Sachins, the Yuvrajs and the Zaheers. Consider too some of the highlights:

Ricky Ponting in the face of criticism, hostility and broken TV screens, playing the innings of his life in his last World Cup match

Sachin and Murali having a face-off in their final World Cup game which, incidentally, is a final

England's ability to infuse interest and drama into any game they played except their last one

Kevin O'Brien's answer to the critics authoring the “minnows should not play” theory

Pakistan's ability to drop Sachin Tendulkar more times than he has been dropped in an entire series

The Indo-Pak leaders meeting in the cricket pavilion first before they meet to discuss more important things….

Yes, we have had a dream World Cup and I went nowhere near the stadium unlike in 1987, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007. India did not win when I watched these matches live and the only match I went to at Bangalore, we tied when we should have won easily.

Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, brand – comm.
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