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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2002

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Cricket: High stakes for all — BCCI looks for second team

Nithya Subramanian

NEW DELHI, Aug. 20

THE big bucks in cricket seem to be too good to ignore. Even as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to go ahead and participate in the forthcoming International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy without the stars, it has asked the 16 players, who had refused to sign the ICC-formulated player terms, to reconsider their decision.

Meanwhile, it has asked the selection committee to identify 20 new players to form a second team. This will, however, be a one-off arrangement and by the World Cup next year, the BCCI and ICC will sort out the tricky issues.

Today's decision seems to have left the door open for further negotiations with the current Indian cricket team. "There is so much money in cricket that a compromise would have to be worked out," said a Mumbai-based media planner.

The presence of stars like Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly or Rahul Dravid keeps the interest of the game alive. And, Indian matches are critical, as viewership then is high.

According to Ms Mona Jain, FCB Ulka's media buyer, "Without stars, viewership will come down. Many advertisers who have not committed themselves, could withdraw".

Advertising industry sources said that so far, no big advertiser has made firm commitments. They also added Sony Entertainment Television and Doordarshan may have to bring down their ad rates. Sony is charging $6,000-$7,000 for a 30-second spot for ICC Knockout, and about $9,000-10,000 for a 30-seconder during the World Cup. "And, each match has close to 4,000 seconds of advertising time," said an industry source.

Ms Vibha Desai, Head of Ogilvy & Mather, Delhi said, "There are certain viewers who watch the game because of Sachin or Dravid. Such viewers will not come in and channels could lose out".

The advertising fraternity appeared confident that the current team would reconsider its stance as the moolah from endorsements is high. While a player could earn as little as Rs 1.5-2 lakh per match, an endorsement could fetch him 10 times the prize money.

If players like Sachin or Dravid remain out of the game for a longer period of time, it will impact their endorsements. "When a player is doing well, companies tend to use him extensively. And if he is out of action for a while, then he is out of the endorsement circuit," said an adman.

It is also expensive for companies to sign on new players. When asked whether there would be a scramble to sign on players if there is an alternate squad, the media planner said this was unlikely.

"They will have to prove their mettle and should be saleable. Companies like Samsung have signed up seven players. The endorsement fees and cost of commercials will make them go slow in signing on new players," said an advertising industry official.

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