If you were to ask any cricket equipment manufacturer in Jalandhar on whether it supplies bats to Sachin Tendulkar the reply is: "No, he uses MRF bats."
But almost all large manufacturers is bound to read out a list of international players who use their equipment.
Occasionally, they would pull out old newspaper or magazine pictures of international players sporting equipment bearing their brand names. But most brands can only be seen in one corner of the equipment while the main sponsor's logo would occupy a majority of the space.
"It is very tough for us to compete with large corporates due to the scale of money involved," says an equipment manufacturer, who religiously supplies cricket and hockey gear to the leading international players on a monthly basis.
He claims nine players in the Indian hockey team for the Athens Olympics used sticks manufactured by his company. Similarly, half-a-dozen international cricketers in India use the same bat.
The sponsorship money for displaying a manufacturer's logo costs upwards of $200 per one-day international cricket match. This is what a lowerorder Kenyan batsman is likely to charge. A Kenyan or Bangladeshi opener would charge at least $500 a game. And an Indian opener? "We haven't even thought about it," an equipment manufacturer said.
Theway the business operates is by handing out equipment at the club level. Once the players graduate, they start demanding custom-made equipment and even if they manage a large international sponsor, the equipment manufacturer, which has nurtured the player from the junior grade, remains loyal.
Somuch so, that the best English willow is set aside to manufacture bats for the Tendulkars and Brian Laras of international cricket.
Theloyalty also pays off at times with, say, West Indian batsman Darren Ganga introducing the equipment supplier to Brian Lara and a set of equipment is promptly delivered to the West Indies captain as well.
"Playerslike Lara get equipment from all the major manufacturers in the world, and if one of us is lucky he might just order some bats from us. But on the whole players remain loyal to the original equipment manufacturer," says a leading manufacturer of sports goods.