Long years ago, shortly after India had won the World Cup for the first time, Kapil Dev promoted soft drinks. “Lucky consumers” who landed the right kind of bottle crowns had a chance to meet and greet the captain of the 1983 team. Why, he would even come home and drink a bottle or two with you.
India has won cricket’s quadrennial showpiece in circa 2011 once again, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, perhaps in the spirit of the times is, well, promoting McDowell’s VSOP brandy. Winners in this case (pun intended) get a chance to “meet and greet Dhoni“, the captain of the victorious team.
Little wonder, “conservative” Madras is all het up at the sight of the Chennai Super King promoting a liquor brand in hoardings, ads and other promotional material. An NGO has even taken out a protest march. The former Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss has piped in.
“It is disturbing to note that your participation in surrogate liquor advertisements ruins the lives of the millions of Indian youth. I hereby request you to reconsider this and withdraw from these ads and thereby save millions of Indian youth,” Ramadoss writes in a letter to Dhoni.
The questions are obvious: Should sportspersons in general and cricketers in particular be endorsing alcohol-related products and events? Is surrogate advertising by liquor companies going out of control in cricket (Kingfisher is associated with almost every IPL team in one way or the other, besides owning a team named after Royal Challenge)?
And, above all, is there no end to the greed of cricketers like Dhoni? Is he ignorant about his influence on the young, or is “Captain Cool” just too chilled out for our comfort? If Pullela Gopichand could reject a fat cheque from the soft drink majors, which the likes of Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t resist, why is it so impossible for Dhoni?
Or, thambi, are we getting too squeamish about all this?