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Duniya in hand, just a fistful on score card

New Delhi, Feb. 15: When Virender Sehwag gets out after using his bat like a fly-swatter, the advertisement on Set Max that immediately follows his dismissal shows him tonking the ball for a six.

In the confines of a room, where some 25 people have huddled to watch the match on the telly, the fans let out one of the many collective sighs that keep time with India’s falling wickets and plunging fortunes. The advertisement is like rubbing salt to wound and provokes an outburst: “These television-wallahs are ruining our boy.”

Sehwag is Delhi’s darling. His rise to fame from humble beginnings in Najafgarh is the stuff of urban legend. Yet, the ill-timed commercials are leaving the fans squirming.

Sehwag on the field has just removed his helmet while walking back to the pavilion after being dismissed for four. Sehwag in the commercial has this sudden burst of inspiration because he has just seen his mother’s portrait on an MMS with the message: ‘Kar lo duniya mutthi mein’ (Hold the world in your hand).

Other cricket commercials, too, are not tight-fisted with eulogies and larger-than-life images.

Television and cricket have fed on each other — television because it makes the game accessible to all and cricket because so leisurely is its pace that there is enough room for commercials and the money they bring.

But the channels have shown such poor timing in scheduling their advertisements that they only emphasise the gap between the real and the commercial. “It was inadvertent,” says Pavan Chawla, spokesman for Set Max, almost apologetic.

“The commercials are fed into the log two days before the live telecast,” explained Rohit Gupta, head of network sales for Sony Entertainment Television. “We cannot change the log because of India’s performance. We cannot programme India’s performance, but we desperately hope that it will improve.”

Sony and Doordarshan are desperate to cover the costs of bringing the live telecast. For Doordarshan, Nimbus is marketing the event and has guaranteed it a minimum amount. Both channels have to make the most of India — as little or as much of it that will be on show.

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