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|April 21, 1999||
Keeping a watch on AzharSyed Firdaus Ashraf
Move over Cindy Crawford, make way for Mohammad Azharuddin!
"Azharuddin's huge popularity, elegant style and precision timing complement Tissot's core brand values and underline its commitment to excellence," was how Jean Marc Guillod, the Swiss company's sales chief for the region, explained the synergy.
Tissot, which is part of the Swatch Group (comprising Omega, which has Crawford as ambassador; Rado, Longines, Swatch and Calvin Klein), has traditionally used sportspersons to market its range -- drawing its models and ambassadors from the worlds of cycling, ice hockey, fencing and now cricket. In the past, Tissot has tended to use a world championship, in a particular sport, as a launch platform -- thus, Azhar's being signed on, for an amount not disclosed, is in tune with the company's overall strategy.
"The media must give positive support to the Indian players," said Azhar. "Every time we lose a match, the media starts criticising. This is not good for the players, as it gives them negative publicity and demoralises the players," he added. However, when asked how the media was expected to praise a team for losing, consistently and by large margins, Azhar moved on to other questions.
Asked if the recent defeats at Sharjah had dented team morale, the captain angrily asserted, "Jo ho gaya so ho gaya usko kyon dahurate ho? (Whatever happened is over. What is the point in repeating the same question?). We should look to the future and Inshallah, we will do good in the World Cup."
Asked about recent media reports suggesting that Ajay Jadeja was the better captain, Azhar evaded a direct response and said, merely, "Cricket is a team game, and no individual can decide a game. There has to be a team effort in cricket, unlike other games. So, if I play well, the other players too have to play well. So you can't point fingers at one particular player in cricket, but rather you should see the game as a team effort."
Asked if the return of Sachin Tendulkar would make a difference to the side in the World Cup, Azhar said, "Sachin definitely is a crucial player in our team. But in our team, there are other good batsmen too. And all of them perform well. So again, I must mention that cricket does not depend on an individual but it depends on the entire team."
Azhar said that in order to do well, the Indians would have to concentrate on their batting and fielding.
"We need the best of wishes of every Indian," said Azhar. "And the media, too, should not go overboard to criticise the players. After all, the players are human too, their morale will definitely get affected if they get bad publicity."
Tissot, meanwhile, has signed a two-year contract with Azhar. When, during the media briefing, the question of Azhar's utility as brand manager in the event of an Indian defeat in the World Cup was raised, Ravi Thakran, General Manager, Swatch Group, South Asia, said, "The contract has been signed keeping in mind the entire career of Azhar, spanning 15 years, and you cannot deny the fact that his record of scoring three centuries in his first three Test innings remains unbeatable.
"Azhar is the player who has played most number of matches, taken the most number of catches, we think there is no better sportsperson than Azhar to be our brand ambassador," Thakran said.
After the briefing, a small golden bat was presented to the Indian captain. Inscribed on it were the words: 'Win it for us, Azhar'.
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