Make no mistake. The 'Little Master' is back. With scores of 100, 42 and 95 in the last three one-day international matches, Sachin Tendulkar has effectively silenced his growing band of critics, and demonstrated that he has lost neither his form nor his passion for the game.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni may have played the match-winning innings this evening at Lahore, but his and indeed the entire team's innings was based on the platform given by the Tendulkar.
Listen to the experts: “Tendulkar's innings was the key. The old Sachin has come back,” said ex-England captain Nasser Hussain. Imran Khan said: “Sachin played a brilliant innings. I think this was Sachin's best (in the series)”
Sachin's return to form is great news not just for Indian cricket, but for India Inc too. After all, he is not just India's greatest cricketer. With tens of brands and crores of rupees riding on him, Sachin is one of corporate India's biggest media vehicle.
Needless to say, his sponsors are delighted. “We never doubted Sachin's capability, and backed him unflinchingly all through,” says Rajeev Bakshi, chairman, PepsiCo India.
For Tendulkar, too, the three knocks in Pakistan could mark a turning point in his brand life cycle. A big knock in a crucial India-Pakistan series is also good news for the value of Brand Sachin, which many people were writing off lately.
Sachin is reported to be asking for Rs 30 crore per annum for signing on with sports management companies, after his five-year term with WorldTel ended last December. These knocks may just be the catalyst and impetus for big sports management companies to start courting the Little Master once again.
And if he chooses to market himself, as is most likely, there should be no shortage of brands beating up a path to his door.
“Sachin has brought the spotlight back on himself. There was no question on Sachin the cricket legend. But what Brand Sachin needed was a reaffirmation of flamboyance and aggressiveness, as shown in today's match,” says Shailender Singh, CEO, Percept D'Mark.
There are some who caustically remark that Sachin's return to form will come to the rescue of an idea-starved ad industry. “His departure would have crippled the Indian ad world bereft of big ideas. He's a big media vehicle on which big brands ride,” says Partha Sinha, chief strategy officer, Publicis India.
But one swallow does not a summer make. Sachin may have scored well in the last three innings, but many reckon that he is still far from redeeming his match-winning, demi-god status in Indian cricket. After all, even after a brilliant 95 knock, it was MS Dhoni who walked away with the Man-of-the-Match award and the accolades from the man on the street.
“His recent knocks may have arrested the negativity building around him, but his brand persona of being a dominating and ruthless batsman is yet to surface again,” says Santosh Desai, president, McCann Erickson.