India’s dramatic innings victory over South Africa with nine balls remaining in the second and final Test not only helped the team retain its No.1 ranking, but will possibly spell a resurgence of viewer, advertiser and sponsor interest in the longer form of cricket.
Top form: The Indian team celebrates after winning their second Test cricket match against South Africa in Kolkata on Thursday. Reuters
“The flavour of the month is T20. But when this happens, advertisers as well as audiences start looking at Test cricket and one-day internationals in a different light,” says Hiren Pandit, managing partner–entertainment sports partnerships, at media buying and planning agency Group M.
The Indian team’s rise to the top spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) test rankings last year, after defeating Sri Lanka 2-0, had caused the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to hurriedly rework the cricketing calendar to include more Tests.
India had been scheduled to play just a series against Bangladesh early this year, and one against New Zealand in November, putting the team in danger of losing its hard-won ranking.
Cricketers like captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and veteran Sachin Tendulkar reportedly urged the board to include more Test cricket to ensure the team had ample opportunity to defend its ranking.
The more the number of Tests India played, the greater its chances of retaining the top spot.
The Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata had been marketed by broadcaster Neo Sports as the unofficial world championship. South Africa had needed just a draw to take the top ranking away from India after having won the first Test.
While India’s No. 1 slot in the ICC rankings may not make Test cricket more popular than other, shorter cricketing formats such as T20 or one-day internationals, it will definitely help attract more sponsorship for the longer form, experts say.
“It (cricket) is a fairly safe buy and India’s rankings as well as their performance in the match definitely help,” said Llyod Mathias, president and chief marketing officer, Tata Teleservices Ltd, which has invested heavily in the upcoming one-day internationals (ODI) against South Africa as well as the Indian Premier League (IPL).
“Though T20 and one-day internationals continue to attract a huge bulk of the advertising spends, such wins will give a huge fillip to Test series sponsorship,” said Indranil Das Blah, vice president, Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
“To my mind, there will be a premium attached to being associated with the world’s number 1 team in Test cricket,” he added.
Some stakeholders say the Kolkata win will help sustain interest in cricket at a time when security risks, following last weekend’s bomb blast at a Pune eatery and warnings issued by militant groups, threatened to play spoilsport at cricketing events, including India’s three-match ODI series against South Africa and IPL, the third season of which will start in Mumbai on 12 March.
NEO Sports has already sold its ad inventory for the three ODIs, with 10-second slots going at about Rs3.5 lakh each.
“For cricket, the winning mentality keeps the mood buoyant and the interest of advertisers, viewers and sponsors active,” said Prasana Krishnan, chief operating officer, NEO Sports Broadcast Pvt. Ltd.