July 04, 2020
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His Stumps Uprooted

The marriage of cricket and marketing comes to a (full) head

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His Stumps Uprooted
His Stumps Uprooted

When Salman Khan signs up for a hair enhancement job, we can sympathise with his situation. Even with that six-pack bod and provocative pelvic thrusts, a depleted hairline is sure to drive the ladies away. Not to speak of his zillion stud fans. In market research surveys and television sound bites, it does sound very cool to declare bald is sexy. But in reality, it’s always the deep-rooted who walk away with the pristine beauty into the sunset. So movie heroes fretting over hair loss is kosher.

But what is it that makes cricket stars want to keep their hair on after middle age rings in? Shouldn’t they let their bats and balls (the cricket ones anyway) do the talking? And yet, even the helmeted sex up their heads. It’s a long list, an all-world line-up: Shane Warne, Michael Vaughan, Sourav Ganguly, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Doug Bollinger. Even the ever-so-gentle Harsha Bhogle, who only speaks on cricket, could not resist buying himself a full pate.

And now, the Rajya Sabha designate, Shri Sachin Tendulkar himself, has decided to join the ranks of the hair-brained. At the time of writing this piece, it’s not clear if the cricketing god simply had his hair styled or went in for an embellishment. But the new look sent the Twitter world into a mad tizzy, as the virtual community got busy dissing the maestro’s not-very-hip hair locks. Some even bitchily suggested it’s his way of preparing for a new career in the “down-market” Parliament. One thing’s for sure: Sachin’s hair stylist has no reason to stay in the business. It’s such a messy job that someone needs to file an RTI application to expose the villain. Given the hero’s gargantuan fan following, perhaps even a bitter PIL is called for.

Anyway, to get back to the issue, one wonders what’s with the hair fetish. To an extent, one can understand the sms-happy Warne’s compulsions, since he leads a rather colourful life and all his body parts need to be in top gear at all times. But the rest of the old boys are ‘happily’ married, adored by the masses and take home very fat paychecks. So then, why does hair loss get their knickers in a twist? The obvious explanation is that cricket is a young man’s game (that circus called the IPL notwithstanding) and the ageing star dreads being addressed as ‘Uncle’ in public. And while you cannot suddenly become stylish, or develop hot abs, or grow tall, or get a wrinkle-free complexion, you can deal with hair loss without too much effort. Why run tiring singles when you can hit boundaries, as Sehwag would say. But I suspect the issue goes beyond the phobia of ageing.

I’m not sure how this will hold up when it comes to international cricketers, but one can postulate with some degree of certainty about Indian cricket stars: the loss of potential endorsement deals must worry them—a lot. Most brand managers would shy away from follically challenged cricketers (unless it’s an advertisement for a hair transplant studio or a Viagra equivalent), and this would mean loss of some serious revenue for our heroes. Better to correct one’s own hair-line than have the line on the balancesheet ruined. Simple business logic.

It’s also quite possible that the sports television network chiefs have subtly hinted to our retired boys (and now multi-media commentators) that some stylish hair on the head would be a nice thingy. It’s a visual medium, you see. Doesn’t look very nice if all those young, well-tressed cheerleading gals perform their numbers around shiny heads. Cannot risk viewers having a Lolita moment during the cricket telecast now, can we? (Incidentally, I do get a little alarmed when the balding and rambunctious New Zealand commentator Danny Morrison gets too close to the lasses.) Television contracts are like sexy vrs schemes for ex-players. Minus those, it would be back to the public sector bank’s hateful nine-to-five job. It’s a no-brainer, really; it’s better to quickly get a hair job done. What’s more, even the treatment fee can be saved if the cricketer agrees to endorse the hair transplant outfit. And many do.

To return to Sachin Tendulkar, whose enormously shoddy hair job triggered this particular piece, a bit of advice for the great man: Chief, there’s no need to tinker with the hair for a posting in Parliament. The simple little Gandhi topi will suffice. And the ability to run before you’re hit.

(The author is a freelance journalist and columnist. He’s fast losing hair trying to understand social mores.)

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