Subsequent to writing that piece on the Challenger, I saw, on Rediff, a thoughtful piece by R Swaminathan -- Swami, as we know him -- on the marketing of the event.
Coincidentally, two of the many mails on the subject touched on related themes.
Without ado, will turn you over to Vox Populi -- aka, readers' letters.
H L Cadambi: Agree with almost everything you say...especially about Bedi and his recent ranting!
But: "Right -- that explains why the Challengers, which involved every one of India's cricketing stars and a whole heap of wannabes, drew zero crowds."
Not entirely true!
The event was not marketed at all. I am a member of the KSCA, and I did not even get a notification. The final, particularly, was handled terribly badly.
a/ Several stands were closed completely.
b/ Even at 3pm, after the match started, long queues were in evidence
c/ In the members stand, tickets were being sold at Rs 100 each for members' guests. These were declared 'sold out' halfway through the first innings - even though the stand was less than a third full (I was inside), and even though there were any number of people waiting to get in (I could not buy tickets to get my son and his friends in).
d/ Great disservice to Sadanand Viswanath, whose benefit match it was.
Seems only international matches are marketed at all well.
Prem: Cad, hi, good to hear from you.
Now I am even more curious -- how come? Previous editions of the tournament haven't exactly set the box office on fire, but they definitely drew better crowds and were marketed better than what I understand from your mail, and Faisal's report?
What is the back story, do you know?
Typically, when something like this happens, I tend to start wondering what the politics is -- given the fact that this is the KSCA, given too how your association voted last time, I could speculate; but would rather not.
Any info you can share -- on or off record -- on what went on?
Agree, btw, that it's a pity about Sadanand -- that lad's life has been one long unbelievable story. In my book, easily the best wicket-keeper we produced in modern times, bar none; shot into the spotlight with meteoric speed, vanished just as quickly and the way his life slipped downhill after that was especially sad.
When I think of how we do not, as a cricketing nation, have an official body that recognizes that players are human; recognizes too the need to care for their mental and emotional well-being, his is one of the first names I think of.
Gunjeet Singh: Hey Prem, how's it going..?
Read your latest blog...and couldn't agree more on the pointlessness of the Challenger (has been for years).
The question that springs to mind is this:
Just why did our Board - the most money hungry, materialistic, economically savvy sports body around - not care enough to maximize the revenue potential of its most star-studded domestic extravaganza?
If properly marketed/promoted, this could have resulted in a windfall of the Rs. 1 crore magnitude - as revealed by the following quick back of the envelope calculation:
4 games x avg. crowd of 20,000 = 80,000
Avg. tkt price 50
Total gate collections 40 lakhs
TV rights @ Rs. 10 lakhs per game 40 lakhs
In stadia ads @ 5 lakhs per game 20 lakhs
Total revenue 100 lakhs (am being conservative I'm sure)
Total players 36
Player fees @ Rs. 25,000/game 9 lakhs
MOM awards @ Rs. 25,000/game 1 lakh
Team prize money Winners 10 lakhs
Runnersup 5 lakhs
Third 2.5 lakhs
Total costs 27.5 lakhs
Net profit 72.5 lakhs
Are you trying to tell me M/s Dalmiya and co. didn't run the above math over scotch and peanuts in a Taj Mahal Hotel bar?? And if they did, what prevented them from going all out to ensure the above moolah was not left on the table??
And the same goes for domestic cricket's other tournaments. Running blind after international fixtures, these idiots are completely oblivious to the revenue potential of simple Ranji Trophy games. If properly conducted and marketed that is.
I have a lot of thots and numbers on this subject. Let me know if you want to hear them some day...over beer and peanuts..
Prem: Gunjeet, you pitching for a job with the BCCI?
Actually, your estimate is spot on; conservative if anything (since when for instance did we ever sell TV rights for Rs 10 lakh apiece? Plus, TV ad sales invariably make for a sizeable sum.)
That is precisely what makes me suspect a back story to this; it smells strongly of fish; been thinking of tossing a line into the waters and see what lands on the hook.
About the offer -- can't beat math, beer and peanuts for a combo, let's do it.
Mohit Mishra: I live in Singapore, umpire some local games, miss the game completely on TV, and can only cherish your writing to satiate by cricket hunger.
Working as a management consultant gives me little time to think of anything else but I want to commend you on your writing.
Am just wondering what you are doing in NY?
Wouldn't you be covering the NZ series?
Or the VB Series in Australia?
And one more, before you joined rediff, what did you do?
Prem: Was deputed here to work with our US-based print publication, India Abroad -- so no, I won't be covering the NZ series though I hope to watch at least the one dayers (and prolly write about aspects of that series).
About Australia -- I wish, but again, it all depends on how the work here goes and what the company requires.
Before joining Rediff, worked in a few papers in Mumbai -- The Indian Post, Mid Day, Sunday Observer, and such; though I didn't write on cricket till I joined Rediff.
Nagaraju K: 1.what is your comment on selection of Rohan Gavaskar for the Rest of india team ahead of S Sriram, who seems to be done better work than Rohan? I see that he has been picked only because he is the son of some xxxx.
2.And the same about Yuvraj Singh selection in rest of india? It is understandable that he should be given a chance. but we saw totally failing in county and he is also talking about opening the innings?
Prem: The easiest way out of this is to say god knows!
But you have a point -- Sriram needed to play, if only on the same rationale by which Gavaskar was picked. Then again, who in this country is under any illusion that the selection process is transparent?
I remember how selection committee meetings used to go. Time and again, the team would be picked well ahead of time; the selectors would then closet themselves for an hour or so; the chief selector would come out along with the board secretary; the latter would announce the names; the assembled media would then throw up dozens of awkward questions; the board secretary would sit impassive and leave the poor chief selector -- who in most cases was only doing what his master's voice whispered in his ears -- to bear the brunt.
The board finally decided enough was enough. Mind you, they did not decide that it was time to make selections more transparent -- instead, they swung to the other extreme and said, okay, here on in, after selection meetings, we will simply announce names; but neither the selectors nor the secretary will answer any questions from the media.
You know what, if the Federal government ever said any such thing -- we will announce policy but we will not answer any questions from anyone -- the resulting stink would be enough to bring down the government.
So what does that tell you about the most powerful body in this country? The BCCI, on available evidence, is the only body that can do something so clearly undemocratic, and get away without anyone even raising a whimper of protest.
Rohit Kale: I totally agree with you that this challenger series has raised more questions where it was supposed to provide answers. It must have put our one-day middle-order players on their toes with players like Badani, Rohan, Sriram and Laxman snapping at their heals.
What was good to see was that perhaps for the first time we may have the bowling streangth to compete in Australia. The all-rounder and the keeper is still up for grabs and the challenger failed in that respect. The main contenders for the job (Bahutule, Agarker and Banger) have still some way to go.
Meeraj Ahmed: I read your views regularly and find them very interesting and logical. Definitely the selectors are not serious enough about unearthing quality fast bowlers and are merely contented with producing flat track. It's only fortunate that we still have Zaheers, Munafs, Salvis and Pathans around.
Meanwhile, Prem, there is one point which I had been thinking for a long time and would like to share with you. This is regarding Mohd. Kaif's bowling abilities. During under-19 world cup in SriLanka, Kaif bowled in almost every match and was constantly among the wickets. He bowls more often than not for his state team. He is such an enthusiastic and lively cricketer that every moments he keeps bubbling with fountains of energy, yet why his role has been kept to such restrictions?
Harsha Bhogle once wrote that Kaif should be given a bigger role in the play. You see, in one of the matches, Ganguli tried 9 bowlers, the only two who were not tried were Dravid, who was wearing the gloves, and Mohd. Kaif. When Laxman, who has never touched the ball was given the cherry to make a try, what's wrong in trying Kaif?
Kaif has taken more first class wickets than Mongia, but Ganguli has made Mongia a regular bowler but it's
difficult to understand what stops him from trying Kaif. Even when all part time bowlers are hit in all the corners of the ground, Ganguli would never give the ball to him.
Kaif is such a team man that he keeps his head down and believes in doing the job. He had been given a break in the side after waiting for a long time and when Srirams, Badanis had enough of them. He was in the team from the beginning itself against the last South African touring side, yet Sriram was taken in the team in the fourth match and was straightaway given the chance to play for India, making Kaif just sitting on the bench. He was persistently kept at no. 7 and yet he did the magic at Lords in Netwest Final.
Now he is also excluded from the rest of India side for Irani Trophy, though he was there in the 14 in last Indian Test side. Does this mean he would be axed without even given a chance in the Test?
He has expressed his willingness to bowl but then in this high-tech communication era, who knows when the message would be delivered to Dada?
Prem: Actually, I doubt that there is any doubt Kaif will be picked for the Test series; he is a cert to make the cut for the ODIs. So I wouldn't worry too much about the fact that he is not part of the Rest lineup, actually -- such side games are meant to give guys pushing for a place a chance to perform against international opposition.
It is an interesting point, though, about Kaif's bowling let's see if we can't plant the thought in some fertile soil.
Also read: Where's the marketing genius?
Previous blog: What's the point in the Challengers?
Your Responses: Part two