Companies queueing up to tap former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly as their brand ambassador ought to be a happy lot. A leading London bookie believes that if there is anyone who can swing it for India at the ICC Cricket World Cup, it’s him.
Online sports betting firm William Hill Plc, which says it has more than 4,50,000 registered telephone clients worldwide, is offering 11:4 odds on Ganguly—the lowest among the Indian batsmen—to be India’s most successful batsman.
This means, if anyone puts £4 (Rs344) on the former India skipper, and Ganguly emerges as the highest scorer, the bettor stands to win £11 (Rs946).
Bengal’s most successful batsman ever is ahead of India’s most successful one—Sachin Tendulkar—on whom William Hill is offering 7:2 odds, followed by present skipper Rahul Dravid at 4:1.
Says Rupert Adams, spokesperson of William Hill, “Ganguly is a batsman with massive experience and with a couple of easy games in the group, we expect him to help himself to lots of early runs.”
And while the rest of India might think Mahendra Singh Dhoni will lead India’s late innings charge, the UK betting firm doesn’t think much of him. Dhoni, at 10:1, is behind the out-of-form Virender Sehwag and rookie Robin Uthappa (both at 6:1), as well as Yuvraj Singh (8:1), who has just recovered from injury and has not had any serious match practice.
By William Hill’s reckoning, Ganguly is also a good bet to score the maximum number of runs in the tournament. He’s second only to Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting when it comes to the odds. But Ganguly shares this spot with England’s Kevin Pietersen, South Africa’s captain Graeme Smith and West Indian opener Chris Gayle. Tendulkar and Dravid are among a group of eight players who trail this lot.
William Hill is equally certain that Ganguly is the only Indian who is most likely to smack the cherry out of the stadium the maximum number of times, after England’s Pietersen and Australia’s Adam Gilchrist (both 10:3). Ganguly (5:1) shares the second spot with Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya and West Indian Gayle.
No other Indian batsmen—not even “master blasters” Dhoni or Tendulkar—figure near the top of the list.
Percept D’Mark, the celebrity management company representing Ganguly and which has brought him a clutch of endorsement deals worth about Rs12 crore making him the second-richest Indian cricketer, is also quite confident the former skipper will perform.
Percept chief executive Preeta Singh says, “Sourav’s implicit faith and confidence in his ability as a cricketer and his passion for winning is what gets him right on top of the Indian team, where he?belongs.”
What William Hill is unwilling to reveal is the extent to which Indian fans back home share its faith in Ganguly; gambling is officially banned in India. Adams says he’s sure online bets have been made from India, but when asked for details, he said people don’t log by country.
The UK-based Global Betting Gaming Consultants, which provides professional advice on online betting, too is unwilling to discuss bets from India. Spokesperson Simon Holliday, however, says the tournament would generate about $400 million (Rs1,760 crore) in bets.