MS Dhoni had in past years started sporting a salt-and-pepper beard (pre-mature graying?) but in the first CSK vs MI match last Saturday, he came out with a half-beard, all black. By the Friday night match versus Delhi, the beard had grown all the way, and was pitch-black. Is that preparation for a hair-dye ad or just fears of being dubbed ‘old’ now that his retirement from international cricket is official?
MS Dhoni had in past years started sporting a salt-and-pepper beard (pre-mature graying?) but in the first CSK vs MI match last Saturday, he came out with a half-beard, all black. By the Friday night match versus Delhi, the beard had grown all the way, and was pitch-black. Is that preparation for a hair-dye ad or just fears of being dubbed ‘old’ now that his retirement from international cricket is official?
BCCI

It is a tie! In the Anushka Sharma versus Sunil Gavaskar slugfest, Ms. Sharma reacted strongly to the Little Master’s commentary jeers on Virat Kohli when he named India’s most famous WAG, complaining, “… Mr Gavaskar, your message is distasteful …”.

But the veteran came back even more strongly saying that all he said was, “Virat also had no practice (during the lockdown) and the only practice that (he) had (was) when … seen playing in their building compound and Anushka was bowling to him. That's what I said.”!

Well, 1 run from 5 balls, and two dropped catches in quick succession isn’t the Virat Kohli we used to know. Gavaskar was not wrong in pointing out that playing with a tennis ball, that too with his pretty wife bowling underarm, was not enough preparation to get even the indomitable Captain Kohli back to form for a world-class league.

I tend to agree with Gavaskar: if ‘Virushka’ are promoted together so heavily for being so-cute-so-loving-so-MFEO, and every PDA moment is celebrated with such gusto on social media, why should the hyphen in Virat-Anushka be removed when there is a downer? I would change the tie to 1-0, in Gavaskar’s favour.

Rohit Sharma or Piyush Chawla? Who won the Waistline of the Week Award? Potbellies (didn’t want to call them ‘beer’ bellies because liquor vends were shut for a large part of the lockdowns … so ‘parantha’ bellies may be more apt) for most cricketers looked obscene on screen in this opening week at the IPL. Most, if not all, looked grossly out-of-shape, with an extra 5 to 10 kilos that needed immediate jettisoning.

A jiggling tummy apart, Rohit Sharma seems to have added a few ounces to his face too! So it was not just an overgrown beard, but puffy cheeks too that indicated that the Mumbai Indians’ captain had had a truly pleasurable and relaxed six months gone past. Nothing really wrong with that … as long as the famous Sharma sixes come back double quick to help MI to winning ways.

Talk of the stubble reminds me on how MS Dhoni had in past years started sporting a salt-and-pepper beard (pre-mature graying?) but in the first CSK vs MI match last Saturday, he came out with a half-beard, all black. By the Friday night match versus Delhi, the beard had grown all the way, and was pitch-black.

Is that preparation for a hair-dye ad or just fears of being dubbed ‘old’ now that his retirement from international cricket is official? And yes, by the way, young Virat Kohli too had started to spring the odd white hair in his beard of late, but he too did not have a single spot of white or grey in close-ups last week. Image-makers in full throttle to keep their celebrity clients looking young and desirable?! No shades of grey there!

Meanwhile, BCCI President Saurav Ganguly is peddling his own brand of fantasy league on TV; Kohli is pushing a different one. All competitors to Dream 11, the title sponsor of the IPL.

Where is the BCCI Ombudsman? Is all this kosher? The BCCI Chairman and the Indian captain advertising and endorsing brands that compete with the League’s biggest beneficiary? Phew! Lalit Modi must be ruing why he didn’t monetize himself in his IPL heydays as a brand ambassador!

It is not just the players that are looking rusty; the advertising by most brands has looked even more tired and weary this IPL. Shah Rukh looks unconvincing as a pony-tailed teacher in Byju’s. Kohli must have squeezed in MRF into a 20-minutes shoot-window – the ad is so tacky; Ayushmann looks terrible both in Polycab and Tide (double-role-double-value, She-yushmann is yucky) … the lock-down shoots make him look particularly down-market and amateurish. Aamir Khan and Alia Bhat though excel in the PhonePe ads. And yes, the Swiggy ads have swag, and substance. Though Ranbir Kapoor doesn’t know whether he is pushing Lay’s or Airtel.

There are a lot of ed-tech and gaming brands on TV this year – the pandemic has been a boon for them all. Most of them first-time advertisers. Selling the moon (virtually), or pushing fantasy stuff that is actually anything but gambling.

And as always, ASCI is sleeping. Worse, Royal Stag is selling a Mark of Purity – wonder what that is; Blenders Pride wants us to know that its only business is Music CDs; Sterling Reserve is packaged water – what else?; And yes, SNJ 10000 and British Empire on the CSK clothing are just embroidery embellishments? Booze, naaa?! Wake up, ASCI! Surrogate advertising is not about deliberate hoodwinking.

Before we forget, Shikhar Dhawan looks cute in his oversized night golf eyewear, though he still dropped a simple catch! Preity Zinta was all dimples as Punjab finally looked like winners; and the JSW pariwar are all there in Dubai in full strength to cheer the Delhi team that the HBS alumni Jindal scion Parth is trying to revv up.

A Dog and Pony Show is a colloquial term which has, over the years, come to mean a highly promoted, often over-staged performance, presentation, or event designed to sway or convince opinion for commercial ends. The current IPL almost fits the bill, a hundred percent.

Sans fans. Sans good cricket. Sans any dazzling performances (bar the KL Rahul century, of course). It is, for now, just a lot of ads and client logos, hungering for viewer attention with some tepid cricket thrown in between ad-breaks and jersey close-ups. Yawn! Hope next week gets better.

The writer is a seasoned strategist, and communications expert. He was Group CEO of Zee Telefilms and Founder Chairman of Dentsu India.

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