Major companies have waited for the teen stars to turn into match winners; some that did not and moved too early have burnt their fingers.
Urvi Malvania reports.
IMAGE: U-19 teams in the past have tasted victory, but not every team member has been able to convert it into a permanent place on the team or a long career. Photograph: ICC/Twitter
Youth, cricket and triumph on the field -- that is a combination any brand that is looking to dominate the Indian consumer mindspace would find hard to resist.
And yet the Indian Under-19 cricket team that has just won the World Cup playing against Australia at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, has met with a rather tepid response from companies otherwise eager to jump on to the cricket bandwagon.
The short life of most of the U-19 players in first-class cricket and their low rate of success (with just a handful of exceptions) could be keeping big brands in telecom, e-commerce and fast moving consumer goods at the sidelines, believe many.
U-19 teams in the past have tasted victory, but not every team member has been able to convert it into a permanent place on the team or a long career.
There are exceptions though: Virat Kohli, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Ravinder Jadeja and Shikhar Dhawan have made the move quite successfully.
Still, brands are wary, perhaps unsure whether the promise of a Shubman Gill will translate into commercial success and whether Prithvi Shaw will live up to the hype around him.
Shaw is an exception though, as he had two brands backing him, Protinex (Danone India) and MRF Tyres, even before the squad left for New Zealand.
IMAGE: Prithvi Shaw was picked up by the Delhi Daredevils for ₹12 million. Photograph: Satish Bodas/Rediff.com
"Brands may want to wait it out and observe their careers and then sign someone a couple years down the line," says Ramakrishnan R, founder, Baseline Ventures. He believes that given the propensity for cricket to attract brands and the talent of the present team, brands will soon back the young cricketers.
"Perhaps, another way to go about it is to sign on a player right now for a longer period of time, which will allow them to be part of his growth story," he adds.
What's stopping popular brands from signing Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill?
His point is that given the huge enthusiasm that the team has generated within the country -- there were over 500,000 tweets celebrating India's win -- and the interest around the players at the recent auctions for the Indian Premier League, brands may need to look beyond the usual way of doing business.
This is India's fourth U-19 World Cup title after Mohammad Kaif's team won it in 2000, Virat Kohli's team in 2008 and Unmkut Chand's team in 2012.
In all these instances major companies have waited for the teen stars to turn into match winners; some that did not and moved too early have burnt their fingers.
IMAGE: Shubman Gill, the Man-of-the-Tournament at the Under-19 World Cup. Photograph: Satish Bodas/Rediff.com
But 2018 could be a different story.
Nearly half of the World Cup squad has been picked up by IPL franchises, and not all went for the base price.
In fact, pacers Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti attracted some heavy-duty bidding and went to the Kolkata Knight Riders for a hefty ₹30 million and ₹32 million respectively.
Captain Prithvi Shaw was picked up by the Delhi Daredevils for ₹12 million while Shubman Gill was snapped up by Kolkata for ₹18 million.
The popular opinion is that these players pose a unique challenge. While on the one hand, they have age on their side, they lack experience. The trick, therefore, would be to strike a balance.
While some advocate risk on the part of the brands, others advice caution. Both the strategies have their own risks, however.
If brands wait too long, they may have to shell out hefty sums to get these players on board, a couple of years down the line.
In case of brands signing up players for the long term right away, they may lose out if the promise does not bear out in the form and performance of the players on the field.
Performance is the key, says Indianil Das Blah, partner and COO, KWAN.
"The good thing for this lot of players is the massive visibility new media affords them. Back when Virat (Kohli) led his squad to victory, the amount of visibility was limited. But for this team, that is not an issue. Most of the players already have agencies representing them and with so many of them in the IPL, it will definitely help build their profile," says Blah.
"But at the end of the day, it will always boil down to how they break into the senior team and hold on to their place in the playing 11," he says.
There is another variable in the mix: The composition of the India 11.
If the seniors stay around for longer than they are expected to then the young members could end up waiting in the wings forever.
Brands are therefore taking a long look at their options before they take that first step towards signing up a new face -- be it a Shaw or a Gill.