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Bollywood and cricket. It is not easy to unite over a billion people together who are from different religions, social classes, and diverse generation gaps. What once united Indians is no longer holding true, e.g. "values" like "we are not as promiscious as the west" are eroding quickly. The only other factor uniting Indians in pride is the woman who is considered "the most beautiful woman on earth" Aishwarya Rai and a guy called Shah Rukh Khan who has a huge fan following in places like Poland and Germany. Bollywood and cricket personalities unite Indians more than our "cultural values" today.

India and Cricket

1. What unites Indians (particular interests, values, attitudes, etc.)?
Bollywood and cricket. It is not easy to unite over a billion people together who are from different religions, social classes, and diverse generation gaps. What once united Indians is no longer holding true, e.g. "values" like "we are not as promiscious as the west" are eroding quickly. The only other factor uniting Indians in pride is the woman who is considered "the most beautiful woman on earth" Aishwarya Rai and a guy called Shah Rukh Khan who has a huge fan following in places like Poland and Germany. Bollywood and cricket personalities unite Indians more than our "cultural values" today.

2. What three brands or products would you tell your grandchildren about to help them understand what India was like in 2008? Why those three?
1) The Tata Nano - the world's cheapest car, because it would revolutionize how the average Indian family travels. Now every family can afford a car instead of a husband, wife, and 3 children all scrambled on a motorcycle.
2) The Kingfisher Brand - Dr. Vijay Mallya is considered to be the "Richard Branson of India" with his line of Kingfisher products from an airline to beer. Kingfisher beer is available is quite a few countries in the world, it is India's premiere local beer.
3) M.F. Hussain - Maqbool Fida Hussain is considered to be the greatest contemporary painter India has ever produced. He is an icon in the global art scene who brought Indian art to the west. I mention him because he is a very controversial figure in India, he often gets targeted by Hindu fundamentalists who accuse him of offending Hinduism through his paintings. His work and personality reflect how India is such a land of contradictions, with his art being a source of pride for many Indians but harmful in the eyes of others.

3. And what three brands or products related to cricket would you tell your grandchildren about to help them understand what India was like in 2008? Why those three?
1) The Indian Premiere League (IPL) - this is the officially recognized cricket league where Indian and international cricketers play on city-based teams. Officially recognized by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it injected a new found interest in cricket with the T20 format, a faster more dynamic form of the game.
2) The Indian Cricket League (ICL) - this is a "rebel league" who's players face the risk of being banned to play for their countries, as it is not recognized by the BCCI.. reflecting the internal politics of our beloved sport.
3) The big 3- these are not brands/products, but are the biggest contributors to Indian cricket: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly. They are old enough to retire from the sport, and 2008 is a changing time for the game because these big 3 are being sidelined by the younger, more athletic and talented players of now. However, the big 3 have tremendous "brand value" with their tremendous amount of product endorsements.

4. What are some key things for us to know about cricket and its role in Indian society? Why is it so popular? What is unique about Indian cricket? What should a company be sure to do or not do when connecting with Indians and cricket?
Every company should be well aware of the saying that "cricket is like a religion in India". It is the only sport in India that boasts of millions of dollars in revenue globally and its board (the BCCI) is highly influential in decisions made by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The obvious popularity with the sport comes from the fact that it is pretty much the only sport, besides hockey, chess, shooting, that India has a world-class team in. India traditionally is not a sporting nation, so the people will support it overwhelmingly when it does do well in any sport, especially when the sport is marketed significantly. Cricket has a crucial role in Indian society, as players comprise of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and their religion does not figure in the sport, like it does when you're applying for a job or choosing life partners in India. What is unique about Indian cricket is their rivalry with team Pakistan. They play each other on the field, it is like war. But, nothing else has brought the two countries closer than the game of cricket. Their cricketing greats are often seen sharing tips and tricks with Indian youngsters and vice versa for the love of the game.

5. What is your most memorable or special experience related to cricket?
It would have to be the 2007 T20 world cup. T20 is a new form of the game that lasts just 4 hours. India were the underdogs in this tournament for several reasons. There were very strong teams like Australia, South Africa, and England. Plus the Indian team had the youngest players, least experienced, and did not have the big 3. Rumour had it that the big 3 opted out of the tournament because they did not believe India had a chance in this new form of the game. Eventually their absence turned out to be the biggest advantage for Team India, as the young players stepped up with their fresh legs and made it all the way to the finals and of course won! What made this tournament so special is the fact that the final was against none other than our arch-rivals Pakistan. So the pressure on this young team was unbelievable. The final was such a close contest with the result coming down to the last ball. The media went beserk when we got the last man out, and there were a billion Indians screaming their lungs out. There were awesome moments in the tournament like when Team India defeated England, South Africa, and Australia back-to-back, when there was a tied game with Pakistan where the result was determined by a "bowl-out" (kind of a penalty shootout) which Team India won. But by far the greatest moment in the T20 tournament, apart from the last over of the final, was when Yuvraj Singh hit Stuart Broad for 6 sixes in the over in the game against England. A"six" is the cricket equivalent of the "home run". I will never forget it and often revisit these moments on YouTube.

6. Who is your favorite player and why? And what was your favorite moment in their career and why?

There have been some greats in Indian cricket and even greater moments by many players. The current Team India captain MS Dhoni comes to mind for his amazing resilience and cool under pressure quality. He never gives up. My other favorite player is Rahul Dravid, who is known as "the wall" because it takes a lot for a bowler to get him out. My favorite moment with him was 2003 tour in Australia, the Adelaide test match where he scored a double century to get us out of a pressure situation and eventually to win the match for India. Another awesome moment was in England at the Natwest Series of 2001, when Sourav Ganguly reacted after India winning a real close game. He stood up took his shirt off and flung it round and round while blurting out the biggest obscenities with fire in his eyes. I remember watching this game at a packed coffee house in Mumbai and all the young men took their shirts off and did the same thing.

7. How do cricket fans show their loyalty and support, and feel connected to their team? And how do teams earn their fans loyalty and give back to their fans?
There is nothing structured about this. Its a feeling. The media plays a huge role because the focus on the team and their whereabouts and current form always makes news. Fans often show support on big games by painting themselves from head to toe with the Indian tricolor, and bring along plenty of Indian flags and signs. Some of the girls bring signs that say "Marry Me Yuvi" to get on TV.

8. What should cricket do to increase its popularity as the game and players change (e.g. big stars like Kumble retire)?
Does cricket need to get more popular in India? I don't think so. But it definitely could work on getting more global recognition as a world sport. Efforts are underway to have cricket as an olympic sport for London 2012. Hope this happens! I don't understand why baseball is an olympic sport but cricket isn't.

9. How, if at all, does pride in the Indian Cricket Team reflect pride in India itself?
Cricket makes Indians proud of where they come from for some odd reason. There is not much to be proud of as an Indian in terms of atheletic sports. This is one game where Indians get a chance to scream out loud on a huge international scale where media from all over the world covers the event. And we are definitely a people that love to make noise when the opportunity arrives. I guess cricket brings people together to support our team no matter what our relious beliefs, backgrounds or income level.

10. Do you think the game is becoming increasingly commercialized (bigger salaries, more expensive sponsorships, the IPL), and if so, what do you think about that and why?
It is the law of nature for popular phenomenons to become commercialized. I take it in a very positive way and it can only be good for the game globally. Why shouldn't players get bigger salaries? They are doing a very important job by bringing people together in moments of sheer bliss, where you forget about the problems of the world. Without sponsorships, we would not be able to watch the games live on TV and wouldn't have the recent improvements in our stadiums. The only downside to the commercialization is that players can lose sight of the game and become more like movie stars, and the fact that there just too much cricket being played nowadays that is really does wear the players out which also results in more injuries and fitness issues. But the bottom line is if players don't perform, they are easily replaced so commercialization has inadvertantly promoted players to do their best.

11. How do people use technology (mobile phones, internet, etc.) to keep up with news on favorite teams, share cricket related information, and keep connected with a league they play in, or participate in an informal game? If it applies - please include what devices you use and what sites you go to.
I personally visit these websites: cricinfo.com, cricket365.com, cricketnirvana.com to get the latest news and updates in the cricketing world. The IPL and ICL leagues have their own websites that I visit when the leagues are on. I do not use my mobile phone to get updates, I find it distracts from my day job.

12. What brands come to mind when you think of cricket clothes, shoes or hats – both for athletes and fans? How could brands like these give something back to help or support the Indian Cricket Team, their fans, or cricket in general and thereby earn the right to be a cricket sponsor?
Airtel, Emirates Airlines, MRF are brands that come to mind. If they are involved in bringing cricket into every household in the country and around the world, they are good enough to be a cricket sponsor in my book. Man of the matches and series often get a sponsored product like a car or bike in addition to prize money. Its a good enough gesture, and I don't have a problem with them getting the advertising.

13. Any other thoughts you’d like to share related to India or cricket?
Cricket is such a force in India that even Bollywood is feeling the heat. Many Bollywood movies now have cricket-related storylines and themes to capture the audience's excitement. Most noted of these films is one called "Lagaan" which tells the story of the evolution of cricket in India and was nominated for an Academy Award (the Oscar) for best foreign film in 2002.

 


 
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