Despite their sorry performance against Australia in one-day internationals, players on the Indian cricket team, especially those who play Twenty20 matches, remain in great demand as pitchmen. There is just one growing problem for potential clients: these men in blue are very pricey.

Percept Talent Management COO Vinita Bangard (left) with Michael Clarke

“It is an extremely cost-effective option for clients who might want to be associated with the game, but can’t afford high endorsement fees charged by Indian cricketers," says Vinita Bangard, chief operating officer of Percept Talent Management (PTM), an arm of Percept Holdings Pvt. Ltd. “That’s when international stars become very viableoptions."

Bangard should know. The Mumbai-based talent agency she represents manages endorsement deals for cricketers such as Yuvraj Singh, Sourav Ganguly and S. Sreesanth. It has also recently signed on Australian batsman Michael Clarke for an undisclosed sum.

The agency will manage all of Clarke’s endorsements in the Indian subcontinentover the next 12 months, and is actively looking to sign on more cricketing talent from Australia, the West Indies and Sri Lanka.

According to market estimates, an endorsement deal with cricketers such as Singh and M.S. Dhoni could set a company back by Rs2 crore; the cost attached to an international cricketer would be substantially lower, sometimes up to 50%.

“That is pretty much the case globally," she says. “Deals with local players will always be more expensive." But could an Australian batsman work the magic for an Indian brand? “We have done our homework and the market feedback is quite positive," Bangard adds. There are already examples of some Australian cricketers endorsing Indian products.

Brett Lee is the ambassador for Timex Watches Ltd and has also endorsed the Kingfisher brand for United Breweries Ltd. Ricky Ponting recently signed an endorsement deal with Valvoline Cummins Ltd while Steve Waugh has endorsed brands such as Videocon, MRF Tyres, Pantaloons and AMP Sanmar Assurance Company Ltd.

Sri Lankan spinner M. Muralitharan and Brian Lara of West Indies have also endorsed Indian brands.

“There is no doubt that the traction that Indian cricketers enjoy here is much stronger than what other cricketers could ever hope to achieve in India or in any country for that matter," says Hiren Pandit, managing partner of entertainment, sports and partnerships at WPP Group Plc.’s ad buying arm, Group M.

Pandit adds that the best deal would be for the brand to sign on the cricketer while they are playing in India so as to maximize visibility. Pegged at Rs300 crore today, celebrity endorsements are likely to touch Rs2,000 crore by 2010, according to industry estimates.