The Indian cricket season, which usually kicks off with the Irani Trophy, where the Ranji Trophy champion takes on the Rest of India, is off to a barren start this time.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India managed to convince the TVS Motor Company, exclusive sponsor for all international cricket in India till 2006, to also sponsor this year's Challenger Series one-day tournament and the subsequent Irani Trophy tie for a sum of Rs 2.80 crore. Of this Rs 2.15 crore has been earmarked for the Challenger, the rest for the Irani Trophy.
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Confirming this, R Chandramouli, vice-president (sales and marketing), TVS Motor Company, told rediff.com that the amount for the Man of the Match and Man of the Series awards would be decided in consultation with the Indian board.
At the last Challenger tournament in 2001, sponsored by TVS's two-wheeler rival Hero Honda, the winning team had received Rs 2.5 lakh, the runners-up Rs 1.20 lakh, and the third team Rs 50,000, not exactly grand prizes when compared to international tournaments, but fair enough for the domestic circuit.
Chandramouli also confirmed that TVS's Challenger sponsorship is only for this year and will be looked at afresh next year.The reason for not entering into a three-year contract for the Challenger series is the issue of availability of stars for the tournament next year.
At the launch of the TVS Salve Challenger 2003, Anil Kumble, skipper of the India A side, said the domestic circuit needs sponsors. The sponsors are available all right. But there is no prize at the end of the contest!
Interestingly, India's previous international season ended in April 2003 with the TVS Cup in Dhaka. And -- you guessed right -- that too had no prize money.