Jaldi 5 with Mahesh Ranka: The Tendulkar impact is waning

06 Nov,2012

Okay, the ghost of the Champions Trophy T20 is behind us. The India team for the first two Tests has been announced. Cricket will soon be back on the front pages of the newspapers and essential chatter in the metros and local trains. And above all: Sachin Tendulkar (SRT) appears to be in good form. Since matters off the field (especially on monies in the game) get as discussed as matters on it, MxMIndia asked Mahesh Ranka, CEO, Indus Sports and Sponsorship, a few questions which every sports enthusiast would like to ask.


01. Now that Sachin Tendulkar is back in the runs (albeit against Railways) in the Ranji Trophy, do you think the interest in cricket will rise again?

Interest in cricket isn’t related to interest in Sachin Tendulkar alone… anymore. However, this will get all enthusiasts to sit up and take notice of his performance in the upcoming series… should he play. The fact that we are seeing cricket after long (CLT20 without Indian teams qualifying ahead was forgotten by people), and the holidays/festive season may enhance interest to some level.


02. From the sales point of view, is it true a lot of viewer interest goes up and down given the way Sachin plays?

It was the case until 2005-6. Post that, interest connected to SRT has really been achieving the 100th 100, 50th 100 in one format… and when he hit the first 200 in ODIs. Even today, many enthusiasts out of sheer expectancy of a good innings from the master batsman will switch off their TV sets if and when Tendulkar is out cheaply. The SRT impact however is waning thanks to a decent balance in performances (forget the last England-Australia tours).


03. We’ve seen a lot of cricket this year, and we’ve also seen the interest go up and rock-bottom with Champions League. What’s your prediction for the rest of the cricketing season?

The rules have always been simple… India performs (read wins or stages a heroic effort) and the nation watches, India performs badly… and no one’s happy… viewers, advertisers, media… even experts! We are very emotional about the performance, and that reaction is clearly visible across the spectrum.


04. Over the last few years,other sports have gone up the popularity charts. Tennis, F1, Football and even hockey? Which sport do you think will be next to cricket in terms of sponsorship monies?

Next to cricket, F1 seems like the strong one, thanks to the Airtel Indian Grand Prix. Football is creating its own ecosystem which generates a decent amount of sponsorship monies. The popularity of Indian football, however is limited. TV viewing is skewed to European football and Indian football has big enthusiasm in traditionally strong pockets only.


Tennis had the makings of being #2, but it didn’t?


It was a lot of media-created and fuelled. That probably pushed opinion. Tennis was getting popular thanks to the exploits of Saina…. and of course consistent performance of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. Monetarily, it was never a big business spinner. Many companies invested and failed to raise the necessary sponsorship and other revenue options to run the effort successfully. Apollo’s 10-year plan worth Rs 100 crore crashed within two years of inception, Kingfisher Open, Sunfeast Open… never found support after the first round of deals (three years or so). So much so, that Globo Sports did not continue with the events they had created. Only Chennai open has survived all these years, and that’s thanks to the support of the Tamil Nadu government.


05. Lastly, any truth in sponsors/endorsements playing a role in player selection or staying on even if he or she may not be in top form?

In my position, I wouldn’t know the dynamics that go on in ‘selection’ of players or ‘staying on’ as it’s nowhere close to my function. Neither do we represent athletes nor do we manage their commercial interests. In the past, there have been cases that have been argued on the above, not only in India but also in foreign markets. It’s probably as true and as visible as betting in sports in India.


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