Sports

The Bucks Stop Here

While cricketing frenzy generates big money, little trickles down to the players

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The Bucks Stop Here
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"Cricketers are being exploited like bonded labourers by the Board," says Sumedh Shah, director, Professional Management Group (PMG), the sports promotion company floated by former ace batsman Sunil Gavaskar. The meek have been left to fend for themselves. Result: only the two who can claim superstarstatus, Azharuddin, who endorses Reebok shoes, and Tendulkar, who signed a whopping multi-million dollar endorsement deal with WorldTel—which has the television and radio rights for the tournament—will be visible in the run-up to the Cup. "What about Nayan Mongia? What about Venkatapathy Raju? They are as important to the team as Sachin. What is the Board doing for them?" asks one of Kapil's 1983 Devils.

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Though all the cricket associations which will stage the 17 matches are rolling in funds, the money hasn't trickled down. Says a Calcutta-based cricket writer: "In Indian cricket today, it's survival of the shrewdest." Barring Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri, and to a lesser extent Kapil Dev, Arun Lal, Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohinder Amarnath, few ex-players will benefit either. Says R. Mohan, cricket correspondent of The Hindu: "All they can hope to do is write the odd column anddo commentary, and that only because they are being paid international wages now. Earlier, Doordarshan would pay 300 bucks which wouldn't cover breakfast."

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PMG which has a countdown Sunil Gavaskar presents Great Cricket running on STAR TV, has put the tournament on the internet. "For cricket fans in countries where television won't reach, we'll be the only source of information," says Rajesh Jain, director. Once the tournament begins, PMG will have a live phone-in to provide scores with top cricketers providing expert comments. CD-ROMs in association with Tata Interactive and a diary of the tournament called 'Champions' are also on the anvil. PMG has, moreover, purchased the instadia advertising rights for the Indian segment for Rs 15 crore.

Providing the telecast imbroglio is sorted out, an international panel of 24 commentators in three teams will give the audio feed for the tournament. Indian representation will be mainly in the form of Gavaskar, Shastri and possibly Mohinder Amarnath. "The best commentators can hope to get around $1,000 per match, the others around $500," says Sumedh Shah. "That compared to what the administration is going to make is nothing. Cricketers—present and past—tend to gain very little."

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