When You See Kapil in Tears

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Earlier this year, India’s former captain found his eyes welling up on television once again. Could it be the 1983 win getting eclipsed by World Cup 2011?

Australia had defeated India in the 2003 World Cup final. At Johannesburg airport, downcast groups of Indian supporters waited to board the flight back home. A member of the 1983 World Cup team was among them. He was sad, too, but his wallet wagged happily.

“I’m disappointed, but till another Indian team wins the World Cup, we will always be in demand,” he said. One doesn’t know if he shrugged his shoulders to indicate, “It’s not personal, it’s business,” though.

It had become a joke. Every time a World Cup approached, the media and sundry sponsors of cricket would reopen the dusty pages of the 1983 fairytale, the way England would turn back to 1966 before every football World Cup. The Cup lifters, especially Kapil Dev, the captain of that team, would make paid appearances in the media and at private functions, talking on auto-pilot about the signature moments of the trip, none more than his 175 not out against Zimbabwe and his catch to dismiss Viv Richards in the final. Some of the romance about that victory was genuine, some manufactured. But it always made sound business sense.

“World Cup seasons, Kapil was in business from December. He charged Rs 20 lakh an appearance,” says a source in the Indian cricket industry who has worked closely with Indian and international players for many years. Then, the inevitable would happen. The current India team would fail in its World Cup mission. The 1983 side, one can presume, would clink champagne glasses in private jubilation. Because the gravy train would now chug along for Four More Years. India’s 1983 World Cup win was like Seinfeld or Friends, a phenomenon whose protagonists lived off reruns for an unexpectedly high number of years. Not all the cricketers became multimillionaires like the actors of the TV shows mentioned above, but they still earned well and enjoyed a special status in Indian history.

This April, however, India became world champions a second time. And finally, the sun set on the first time. As a few of us left Wankhede stadium past midnight on 2 April, someone said, “Ab 1983 team ka dukaan band.” (Now ends the revenue stream of the 1983 team). Ironically, the stadium’s cafeteria staffers were pulling down their shutters as he said this.

The source quoted above says with a chuckle, “When I saw Kapil cry on Aaj Tak (after India’s win), I thought there was more than one reason.” More seriously, the source says, “The 1983 team will always be the first. The significance of that win cannot be matched. But the exclusivity has gone.”

“It’s obvious it (the commercial value) won’t be the same,” says Vinay Tewari, managing editor at CNN-IBN, which did a special show on the 1983 team on the 25th anniversary of the win in 2008. “When you are the only World Cup winning team, there’s a premium on you. That is not the case anymore. Besides, the first win happened 28 years ago. The recall was going lower.” Asked if the channel paid the players, Tewari says, “It’s an unfair question.” Told it’s not an unfair question, he says the players were not paid: “It was out of goodwill.” Asked if the channel sold many ads for the show, he says, “I get asked this a lot. But in television, you never really get that much advertising for just a one-off programme.”

Compensation from TV channels may be difficult to quantify, but endorsements and appearances at functions definitely fetched a good price. In the run-up to the 2011 World Cup, Kapil was back in the arclights. Among other activities, he did a high-profile, long-running advertising campaign with Idea Cellular alongside five other World Cup winning captains: Clive Lloyd, Imran Khan, Arjuna Ranatunga, Allan Border and Steve Waugh.

Will Idea spend on Kapil now that MS Dhoni has more than taken his place? Maneet Jolly of Idea says, “I will answer this question as a marketing professional and not an Idea Cellular employee. Your question is understandable. But the current team’s win can also add rather than take away. The 1983 team was the first team [to win the World Cup]. They were underdogs. The 2011 team was a definite favourite. Both campaigns needed different types of leadership. Also, the two captains are from different generations. Because of the wide gap between the two wins, both have a place under the sun. Dhoni represents one generation, Kapil another. There would have been a problem if India had won in 2007 and then again in 2011.” In other words, Jolly says both could be used together in ad campaigns.

But the source quoted at the start of the article is certain the price tag of the 1983 World Cuppers would come down. “Definitely,” the source says. “In any case, there were only four or five players in that team who were stars and stood the test of time. Kapil, Gavaskar, Shastri, and maybe Mohinder Amarnath and Srikkanth. And among these, Kapil made the most of it. He’s an amazing businessman. If Gordon Gekko meets Kapil Dev, he will smile.”

Kapil’s special price tag did not go down well with the rest of the 1983 squad. One member of the team, who played a crucial role in the victory, once said, “When I look at the clips, it’s as if Kapil did everything.”

Kapil Gekko got the biggest chunk of all World Cup 83 related commercial activities. Most of the others had to make do with about a quarter of the money, with Gavaskar and Shastri being possible exceptions. Kapil also earned a tidy sum from syndicated columns. When Open contacted Kapil’s agents before the World Cup, we were quoted a price of Rs 3 lakh for a column he wouldn’t have written himself. “Otherwise it is not worth his time,” we were told.

The 1983 World Cup brought money into Indian cricket. Indian cricket brought money into world cricket. And so, Kapil Dev, as the captain of that Indian team, became the leader of all cricketing commerce related to the event. He was CEO of Nostalgia 83 Inc.  

What about the rest of the 1983 squad? How did they capitalise on their World Cup win? Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri have been senior commentators for a while and they continue in the same vein. Besides, neither is strongly associated with the 1983 campaign. Some other players got deals with news or other sports channels, on which they appeared as experts. Amarnath, Madan Lal, Roger Binny, Dilip Vengsarkar and Sandeep Patil have appeared regularly on TV as experts. This did not have the status of live commentary, but paid well (average Rs 25 lakh for annual contracts, Rs 10,000 a day for stints of shorter duration) and kept them in the spotlight. Srikkanth and Syed Kirmani, thanks perhaps to their quirky personalities, got small endorsements—for eyewear and a hearing aid, respectively.

An industry insider only partly jests in saying, “Kapil should extend a hand of friendship to MS Dhoni so that they can do some ads together.” Self-deprecation could also be a profitable route. For example, there could be an insurance ad campaign that features the 1983 team ruing the success of the current side, concluding with, “At least, we have insurance.”

So maybe the 1983 side won’t disappear. But something has certainly ended. And for some, this is a relief. A former great from a country India defeated in this World Cup said, “I was in the depths of gloom when I saw a silver lining. I wouldn’t have to see Kapil running backward to take that Viv Richards catch again.” He had seen it so many times that he even knew Kapil’s standard line. The one about him wanting to take Madan Lal off the attack, but Madan Lal saying to him, “Tu mainu de de ball...(Just give me that ball).”