COLOSSUS TO CROESUS
Aug 23 2013
Catapulting to 16th place on Forbes’ 100 richest athletes list this year, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the only cricketer to be picked, has shown how sporting success can be parleyed into cold cash
In such a context, Kapil Dev recently came up with his personal selection of an all-time Indian ODI Eleven that had current skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the top, but did not include himself. Similarly, Wisden magazine recently commissioned a shortlist of the five greatest cricketers of all time. The list of such lists, so to say, is an endless one.
Around the middle of each year, Forbes magazine comes up with a compilation of the 100 richest of the year — industrialists, businesspersons, entrepreneurs and companies. It also releases a catalogue of the year’s highest-earning athletes.
Normally, such a directory would evoke little interest in India other than a passing glance to check whether or not Tiger Woods continues to rule (even with his off-the-field doings and their fallout on his earnings). Given the relatively poor pickings available to our sporting heroes as compared to those from the world of soccer, motor-racing, American football and basketball, not to mention golf, it is unusual to find an Indian anywhere on the ladder, unless that desi happens to be a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
So to find MSD (Mahi, Dhoni, Captain Cool, call him what you will) on such a list was something of an eye-opener for many. On this year’s collection of highest-paid athletes, India’s cricket skipper comes in at a cool 16th with earnings of $31.5 million (aroundRs180 crore), which pegs him above the flavour of the month, Jamaica’s sprint king, Usain Bolt (40th place) among a host of other sporting heavyweights.
According to the magazine, the 31-year-old Dhoni earned his millions between June 2012 and June 2013, putting him above tennis superstars Novak Djokovic (28th) and Rafael Nadal (30th) and even former Formula One world champions Fernando Alonso, who comes in at 19th place and Lewis Hamilton (26th).
Calculations are based on earnings estimates that include salaries, bonuses and prize money from both club and national teams, as well as endorsement income. For Dhoni, who has been in the news for finance related matters anyway (over his alleged co-ownership of the agency that handles his endorsements), it is a jump by 15 places, up from 31stlast year ($26.5 million), leaving Tendulkar to fill up that space with annual earnings of $22 million (Rs.125 crore).
Not surprisingly, Woods continues at the head of the field with $78.1 million. Again, no shocks in seeing Swiss superstar and (fading) king of the tennis courts, Roger Federer ($71.5 million) in second place and basketball icon Kobe Bryant ($61.9 million) third.
Indian sports clearly has come of age. It may be the cumulative effect of its immense potential as a market for corporates around the world, a spin-off from the immensely lucrative IPL or just how highly our cricketers are valued, but it is indeed a signal moment.
What makes the rankings handed out to Dhoni and Tendulkar really impressive is the fact that in the top 100, they are the only two cricketers. Dhoni may have been plagued recently by conflict of interest issues over his stake in the company that manages some of the others in the national squad or the fact that his IPL team has been dragged into the IPL-6 spot-fixing and betting scandal, but takes nothing away from how he has parleyed sporting success into cold cash.