The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sponsor is ready to walk miles for heroes

Calcutta, Jan.18: On a day of “some movement” towards resolving the Player Terms dispute, Hero Honda — which has positioned itself as the Desh ki Dhadkan — announced it is willing to “walk any mile” in ensuring that the best Indian team competes in the cricket World Cup.

Even though Hero Honda’s status is a notch lower than the World Cup’s global partners — Pepsi and LG — it still is a significant step in the context of the on-going Terms row.

Hero Honda’s ‘clash’, of course, is with the Sachin Tendulkar-endorsed TVS Motors. In the larger interest, however, it is willing to look at the broader picture.

Clearly, the focus now will all be on Pepsi, which is an old player in India, and new entrant LG.

Indeed, whatever their deal with the International Cricket Council (ICC), through the Global Cricket Corporation, they can’t hope to reap major long-term dividends by antagonising the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

To talk of today’s development, though the Munjals (Brij Mohan Lall and son Pawan) had, during the past few weeks, privately indicated they wouldn’t like Hero Honda to be painted in villain-colours, the concession-offering announcement did take time to materialise.

[That the image-conscious Munjals would relent on the Terms was, in fact, reported by The Telegraph as early as December 27.]

As it turned out, the announcement came exactly a day after Kapil Dev and five others (including N.K.P.Salve and Siddhartha Shankar Ray) filed a Public Interest Litigation before the Delhi High Court.

The petitioners have prayed that all sponsors collectively settle the Terms dispute. If no agreement is reached, they have prayed for heavy sanctions against “Indian sponsors” of the World Cup.

Besides the ICC and its business arm, the IDI Ltd, the respondents include the Union government and the Reserve Bank of India.

Incidentally, while it couldn’t be confirmed, a ‘dialogue’ between the Munjals and BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya preceded the Hero Honda-announcement.

For his part, Dalmiya declined to react till he received Hero Honda’s willingness to “walk any mile” in writing. In any case, the row-triggering matter is before the Delhi High Court.

Yet, as a well-placed source put it, there is “some movement” on other fronts, too.

Hero Honda’s statement, by the way, makes for interesting reading: “Our dream, our ‘dhadkan’, will always be to see the Indian team win the World Cup… We have invested not a small sum towards cricket sponsorship. In return, we have been offered commercial benefits — including competitive benefits. We believe that these are rationally very integral for any big-ticket sponsorship.

“However, if it comes to pass that the World Cup in general, and the Indian team’s participation in particular, could be affected by any such Terms, we would definitely want to be part of a solution.

“We have already demonstrated that in the 2002 Champions Trophy and are as willing to fully cooperate … Specific to the issue at hand, we confirm that Hero Honda will walk any mile and extend all flexibility to ensure the Indian team’s participation in the 2003 World Cup. We hope the others involved also reciprocate.

“For the future, though, the parties involved need to realise that getting big-ticket sponsorships, without effective competitive benefits, would only mean a decline in sponsorship…”

Without getting emotional, that makes sense. However, by Hero Honda’s own submission, that is something for the future.

For now, it’s South Africa chalo. And, at full strength.

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