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I changed from cricket to marketing.
That’s a very easy way out –
A mock hero

They expected a mighty heave from him. Alas! Kumar Sangakkara, the most respected ambassador of Sri Lanka cricket. Now he’s confused with the brands he promotes. Hail all the Sanga benefactors and his private agents! Oh! Mercy! The poor cricket fans. (Files)

"French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial cultural revolution of the country’s television industry began last night as public service broadcasting (PSB) channels scrapped evening prime time advertising, amid an outcry from journalists and strike action planned for this week… Sarkozy studied the BBC model before declaring advertising would be gradually banned from France’s five state channels by 2011, beginning with prime time. He claims scrapping advertising would free state television to be more creative and public service-minded…Last night from 8.00 pm, more than 20 million French prime time viewers were able to watch PSB channels without the traditional 20-minute block of advertising between the end of the evening news at 8.30pm and the start of evening entertainment programming at 8.50pm. Advertising on PSB channels will now stop at 8.00 pm and start again at 6.00 am the following day…Around 40% of French people eat dinner while watching the 8.00 pm television news."

– A news report which appeared in ‘The Guardian’ of Jan. 6, 2009

When he came into bat in front of the monumental Galle fortress, in a Singer Tri Series One-day International against Pakistan on July 5, 2000, at a time when Sri Lanka was struggling at three for 65 while chasing 165 in 45 overs, a cricket fanatic nation had pinned high hopes on this Kandyan lad.

Biggest Advertiser

He was observed as someone who could re-establish, with his posh background, the otherwise fading classy aura of Sri Lankan cricket. After a patchy start, the stylish 22-year-old left hander, steadied a crumbling Lankan innings, guiding it to a match-winning 131 for four with a heartening 66-run 4th wicket stand with Marvan Atapattu.

As the hosts won the match with more than seven overs to spare before winning the series and eventually beating South Africa in Colombo in the final, the country had welcomed a responsible shoulder on which the future of the country’s unofficial national sport would lie in the years to come. That was at the expense of none other than that affable ‘Little Kalu’ of Moratuwa.

The man later carved a niche for himself as a solid No.3 bat for the Lions, with a style compared often to that of former England captain David Gower, and after a few years, earned critics’ recognition as an all-time best wicketkeeper batsman in world cricket. The suave, dignified Kandyan in no time became a masterful figure of the national team. That was the beginning of the story of Kumar Chokshananda Sangakkara, a law student and a high profile international cricketer, who has now turned out to be THE most energetic business advertiser of Colombo commercialism.

Two Phone Ads

Ten days ago, when Sangakkara appeared in a TV advertisement promoting a new mobile phone service saying "I changed to … (the new mobile phone service name). This is a very easy plan." The rational viewers would have felt sick of the man. It was only the other day that the posh Kandyan sportsman, Sri Lanka’s probable future captain, had promoted another mobile phone service in a series of ads. Money talks. The habit of selling knows no ethics.

‘These days, some people tend to sell even their mothers’

– Former Sri Lanka Captain Arjuna Ranatunga who never appeared in commercial ads during his career, because his mother, a school teacher, has advised him not to do so.

Kick ‘em out

From a corporate angle too, Sangakkara has created enemies by betraying ethically a customer base by stepping into the shoes of a rival party overnight. Such people can no longer become overwhelmingly popular cricketers like the ones of yesteryear.

The new ones of course, like Sanga, look like they don’t want to become public heroes anyway. Their sole purpose is to fill their bank accounts at the expense of anything however disgusting or deceitful it may be. But how far such attitudes can go is a problem because the ads and endorsements only last as long as you are popular, as long as you are backed by the public. It won’t be that far off before the day the people kick these mock heroes out of their world.

Sangakkara, along with the present Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan and their subordinates like Tillekaratne Dilshan, Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga – that once-upon-a-time pacie who turned model now seen even in biscuit ads — have now made Ranatunga a lunatic. They say, make hey while the sun shines. Ranatunga could have been nuts not to grab those easy bucks!

Ultimate Flop

By changing from one commodity to the other, notwithstanding even the ethical side of his conduct, Sanga, this eloquent English language speaker and most significantly the most respected ambassador of Sri Lankan cricket, has been left to become a mere third grade joker in the eyes of the public.

By playing to the hands of his unscrupulous advertising agents, who make profits out of this easy image selling business, ‘Sanga’ has foolishly traded in an invaluable charisma that would have one day elevated him to a heroic stature in the national context.

The irritatingly poor cricket that the Lankan team, featuring some glittering stars, display in the middle these days against the Zims and Bangas, will not only annoy the ardent cricket fans of the country but surely they would be driven away from the game resulting in an eventual flop of all commercial endeavours based on the game’s wide popularity.

Over the years, it has been clearly established that mere criticism and the wrath put forward through the media won’t change either the heart or mind of these greedy cricketers. They don’t care a cent. In the thick of the war or even after that, ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ may have to act a Sarkozy here in Sri Lanka. Debunk the ad world! Save the game from money hungry, reckless players!

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