Every ‘social commentator’ has a point of view when the subject is cricket. It doesn’t matter if the same thing is being said, albeit in different voices.
Some are refreshingly different. Santosh Desai touched on the lack of trust all around when he elaborated on the headline of his column in The Times of India, which read: ‘It’s all fixed’. A rare macro analysis on the goings on in the times we live in. In a scenario when you can’t seem to trust anything, it is all the more imperative that one does the right thing. And the ‘right thing’ cannot be a creation born of moral righteousness, influenced by hypotheses articulated by ‘opinion leaders’. The right thing should, in a scenario of not knowing what’s coming from where, be born of conviction rooted in reason and purpose.
Rahul Dravid, in a press conference post the Rajasthan Royals’ exit from IPL 6, pointed out that betting hasn’t caused us to ask for a ban on international cricket. He lent perspective on what needs to be done in light of what has transpired. He acknowledged that the system needs to be set right. And added this: the show must go on.
I believe these two deserve our trust despite the many conspiracy theories surrounding us. Pepsi must lend its ears to credible voices of reason, and not interests that are, possibly, in a hurry to change the game.
When Pepsi became the presenting sponsor of the Indian Premier League, it was after the property had been built for five years. It had been established as part of the evening viewing habit of millions of homes, and those outside TV showrooms. I’m not even counting the crowds that make the matches come alive at the stadiums. Monthly packages on the mobile are finding takers now.
This is an audience whose patience has been repeatedly tested by everything from scandals, ‘slapgates’ and more. They have heard many a war cry on the game being spoilt – be it by format, glamour or money. In any case, I dare say there was always an air of ‘Thoda tho setting hoga’ around most things cricket (and not just T20) for many years.
Perhaps the incorrigible Indian way of underlining that one is alive to the possibility, even while enjoying the game. Did the air of uncertainty ever bring down the popularity of the game?
Pepsi invested in the game and the Indians that follow the game. It has in the past too - with telling effect. It will be letting down the Indian cricket fan who is invested in the game by making statements that add to the clutter. It must not be misled by the bickering within the cricketing establishment past and present, in India and abroad.
The viewership numbers show that the Indian has not lost interest in the game. If he has lost faith in part, history tells us that it will be regained. By all means, punish the wrongdoers who have brought disrepute to the game. Why punish the fan?
Pepsi must continue to play the game - for the cricket fan who will without doubt return to the appointment viewing opportunity next year, to the stadia, and to his favourite cricket stars. There is no reason to believe otherwise.
There is also enough reason to believe that most of the damage can be undone in 12 months. If at all it chooses to get involved, the brand could even play a role in making the cricketing establishment bring the game back to its untainted glory days.
If Pepsi does figure that gains for Atom and brand Pepsi haven’t been in sync with the investment and efforts made, it must think about whether it has leveraged the sponsorship well enough.
Isn’t it obvious that if not Pepsi, there will be a willing taker to present the next edition, especially given that it can only get better from where it is today? Why are we in a hurry to establish that IPL won’t have a Shubh Arambh in 2014?
Of course, if the intent is to renegotiate terms, then it is a different game. And the media will knowingly or otherwise play catalyst like it has so many times in the past.
Gokul Krishnamoorthy, editor, Campaign India