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Virat Kohli uses an ‘MRF bat’. Rohit Sharma uses a ‘CEAT bat’. But whose bat do they really use?

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Rohit Sharma was batting on 36 in India’s first innings of the recently-concluded Brisbane Test when he hit a straight-drive off Cameron Green for four. It was nothing more than a push but the ball raced away to the fence, leaving Adam Gilchrist in commentary wondering which bat the opener was using.

It has happened to us all at some stage. We see these touch-players like Rohit, Ajinkya Rahane, Mahela Jayawardene, Hashim Amla, Mark Waugh, Saeed Anwar, Damien Martyn and say: “Gee, that’s a good bat he’s playing with.”

Shubman Gill’s performance in that historic Brisbane Test also caught one’s attention for more reasons than one. He scored runs for India and helped them win the match but his time at the crease also highlighted the bat he was using, which was conspicuous due to the absence of a logo on it. And that was a bit of a shame because again, the sweet sound off his bat left many wondering who the manufacturer was.

Now, it was a conscious decision on Gill’s part to play with a naked bat in that Test match.

In India, a country which manufactures 95% of the bats used by international cricketers and has a cricket equipment industry that was estimated to be worth Rs 350 crore in 2016, players often earn contracts with manufacturers from a young age.

The process is straightforward: bat-making companies scout for young talents in domestic cricket, often with the help of reputed former players, in order to catch them early at a reasonable price. They then sign yearly contracts which state that the player must use the manufacturer’s logo in return for a fixed payment and a set number of bats for the season. This is beneficial to both parties – the player gets income and equipment while the manufacturer gets advertisement.

For decades, this was the norm for international stars too. They would have a contract with one manufacturer and use their label in exchange of money and equipment. However, all of that changed once Kapil Dev signed a contract with Power in the late 1980s. The World Cup-winning captain received a hefty sum for using the Power logo on his bats and that one association went on to have a profound effect on the bat-manufacturing industry in India. Going forward, the more popular players would sign two contracts – one with the manufacturer for equipment and another with a sticker sponsor for income.

In the following years, brands like MRF, Hero Honda, Reebok and Britannia became household names thanks to their stickers on the bats of India’s finest cricketers. As is the case even today, the manufacturer of the bat would be a different company but the player would receive revenue from another company for using their sticker on the willow. This, of course, didn’t go down well with manufacturers who approached the International Cricket Council in the early 2000s to get more recognition for their products, but their appeal fell on deaf ears.

A point worth noting here is that because of cricket’s enormous popularity in India, manufacturers never really had the option of severing ties with a player. There are plenty of bat-making companies in the country and a player can easily jump ship. Manufacturers rely greatly on word-of-mouth publicity and ‘dressing room talk’ to attract new players and beat the competition, which is why disassociating with a player is never in their interest.

But over time, manufacturers developed a system that earned them direct revenue, if not recognition, through their association with players. Earlier, players would have small stickers or engravings of the manufacturer’s label on the side or bottom of the bat and therefore, manufacturers wouldn’t charge players any money for supplying them with bats. For manufacturers, from a product marketing standpoint, even a small label on the side is a win as a serious cricketer would notice it. But once players started sporting only sponsored labels on their bats, manufacturers decided to charge the MRP for each bat. So now, a sponsor could buy 40-50 bats in bulk for its client and then go ahead and replace the logo.

Over the past couple of decades, players signing hefty contracts for their bat labels has become standard practice. For regular folk, the bat Sachin Tendulkar used was by MRF, like Rahul Dravid’s was Britannia’s, Virender Sehwag’s was Hero Honda’s and Mohammad Azharuddin’s was Reebok’s. Current India captain Virat Kohli uses an ‘MRF bat’ too. In 2017, he signed an eight-year deal worth more than Rs 100 crore with the tyre maker.

It is this mega revenue generating opportunity that Gill was seeking when he carried a label-less bat at the Gabba.

The argument made by manufacturers when they appealed to the ICC was that they weren’t getting the recognition they deserved. The governing body of the sport, which is always likely to prioritise more revenue, had placed a set of rules which allowed major brands, the kind that bat manufacturers can hardly compete with, to pay exorbitant amounts and secure the front and back of a bat for advertisement. This system pumped money into the sport, was profitable for players, sponsors and the ICC, but left manufacturers in the shadows. The skill, effort and resources to make a bat, which is of course the most important piece of equipment for any batsman, was put in by the manufacturer, but there was hardly any way for a layman to know it was their product.

ICC rules
The ICC’s rules and regulations regarding clothing and equipment state that the players must be ‘allowed an opportunity to obtain some revenue from controlled bat advertising’.

Player’s Bat Logo – means an ICC Approved Logo of a sponsor of a player to be carried on the player’s bat; provided that such Logo shall not be either:

a) of, or confusingly similar to, or likely to be perceived as suggesting a connection with:

1) an entity which conflicts (whether through being a competitor or otherwise) with the exclusivity of any sponsor, supplier, or commercial partner of the Member Board of the player concerned or of an ICC Event; or

2) a Manufacturer, other than the Manufacturer of the item of cricket equipment it is to be carried on; or

b) a Betting Logo.

ICC shall have the final say in determining whether any such conflict or circumstances exist and no player may pursue any action against ICC or IDI, or against his team’s ICC Member Board should he be precluded from displaying a Player’s Bat Logo by reason of the same.

No individual Commercial Logos shall be worn by any team member, save for the carrying of a Player’s Bat Logo on bats.

According to the rules laid out by the ICC, a company doesn’t need to be manufacturing bats itself to be allowed to get its logo on a player’s bat. All it needs to do is market cricket bats with its label on it. This means that any company – be it MRF, CEAT, Nike, Adidas, Puma, Reebok, etc. – can purchase bats from manufacturers like SG, SS, BDM, BAS, etc., put their own labels on the bats and market them. This is enough for the ICC to allow that company to land a bat logo deal with a top player. That company becomes a ‘registered sponsor’ with the ICC.

From a legal standpoint, there is nothing wrong in this system. The bat is seen as advertising space. It is one of the few bits of inventory that’s in the player’s control. The other things they wear are part of the team’s inventory, like the labels on the clothes. However, the tools of the trade like that bat, gloves, helmet, pads are in the player’s control. So once you get a product, it’s yours, whether you purchase it or get it as a gift. In copyright law it’s called the first sale doctrine – once you’ve completed the sale, the ownership of the goods is with the buyer and it’s up to them to do whatever they want to with it.

A nod to the artist
The attention that batsmen give to finding the perfect bat cannot be overstated. It is, after all, their most important piece of equipment. There is so much that batsmen obsess over when it comes to bats – the weight, balance, grains, bulge at the back, sweet spot, size of the handle, size of the edges, the grip. Batsmen protect their bats inside their shirts if there is a sudden shower, they use certain bats only in matches – like Tendulkar did for years – in order to lengthen the willow’s life, they have specific technicians they send their bats to for repair, and they often put the stickers themselves – like Kohli said he does.

There’s a lot that goes into making a top quality bat. Each player has specific requirements and it isn’t exactly cheap to make one. And making a bat isn’t an exact science either. Every bat is unique in a certain way because it is not cut from the same piece of wood. Bat makers are highly trained people, there’s plenty of skill involved in their work. Earlier, bats were much thinner and it wasn’t easy to hit boundaries. But now, even top-edges go for sixes. So a batsman’s ability to accumulate runs has increased because of the better quality bats. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the degree of success a batsman can achieve depends greatly on the quality of their bat. But how often do we see a player acknowledge the manufacturer? MS Dhoni did it, in what turned out to be his final international assignment, and ended up making headlines for it.

No one begrudges the fact that players have bat sponsors through which they earn more money. In fact, it’s good for the game that they have another avenue to generate revenue. But shouldn’t the ICC ensure that bat manufacturers, who are key stakeholders in the game, get recognition too? Shouldn’t there be a rule that allows the manufacturer to have a logo alongside the sponsor’s where it is clearly visible? The ICC must ensure that bat manufacturers aren’t reduced to these hidden figures.

Another point worth considering is that when the industry around cricket does well, it’s good for the sport overall. Even from a business sense, the ICC must look at this. It’s isn’t just about the players earning money. If bat manufacturers are helped to grow as brands then maybe there’ll come a day when they could compete with the likes of MRF and CEAT. Maybe they’ll be earning enough to sponsor players themselves. But for that to happen, the industry must be allowed to grow.

The world takes notice when Roger Federer waves his Wilson wand, when Lionel Messi dazzles in his Adidas boots, when PV Sindhu brings glory with her Li-Ning racquet. Bat manufacturers deserve their share of glory too. The ICC should find a way to give a nod to the artist who makes the bat.

“We don’t have any other choice but to live with this,” a senior official of one of India’s leading bat manufacturers told Scroll.in. “We even raised this issue when the post of ICC chief was held by Indians but they didn’t help either, so what’s the point? The ICC only cares about revenue. We accepted this situation 20 years ago. If we don’t give bats to a player, another company will.”

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Call me “Dada”, not “Sir”, Tripura CM Biplab Kumar Deb to employees

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Agartala: In what appears to be a step to boost the morale of the government employees, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Sunday asked the government employees to call him “Dada” instead of “Sir”. “Call me Dada, not sir. It enhances the warmth of the relationship”, Deb told a gathering of government employees.

Deb exhorted the government employees of the state especially ASHA and Anganwadi workers of the state asking them not to dishearten as the state government was eager to improve their pay structure.

“I salute the ASHA and Anganwadi workers of my state. The level of dedication that my sisters have shown during the pandemic period deserved applause. I know, they want to hear good news from me and I am assuring you all that this government will not disappoint anyone”, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb told a gathering of government employees at Badharghat sports school field organized by Vivekananda Vicha Manch (VVM).

VVM has emerged as a big platform of government employees, of late, and Sunday’s public rally was its first big gathering to thank the Chief Minister for the series of steps his government took for the welfare of the employees.

“I know what challenges you people are facing. Nothing is hidden in front of me. I am assuring you all everything will be taken care of in the due course of time”, he added.  Lauding the efforts of government employees Deb said, without them no government office can function.

“Due to the efforts of government employees, people can access the benefits of the state sponsored welfare schemes. But, for a prolonged period the employees did not get their right to do something freely. They were trapped in the clutches of unions. In the previous regime, Left sponsored unions used to enjoy supreme power which had reduced the whole work culture of the state to tatters. In 2018, you people showed courage and voted BJP to power”, said Deb.

“Despite fund constraints, the state government is positively working on the issues of DA and other factors pertaining to the interest of the government employees. Our government has already addressed a number of issues related to financial benefits. The ad-hoc promotion, increment for Group D, Group C employees, regularization of SSA teachers, seventh pay scale, UGC scale for professors, special benefit for LTC are to name a few. All these indicate what we want to do and we shall do what we promise”, the Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister also asked the officials not to call him “sir” suggesting them to refer to him as “Dada” as it makes the relationship stronger and cherished. The Chief Minister also distributed clothes among children of Badharghat sports school during the programme. State BJP President Manik Saha, Minister Ram Prasad Paul, Minister Sushanta Chowdhury, MLA Mimi Majumder, state BJP Vice President and president of Vivekananda Vichar Manch Rajib Bhattacharjee also spoke on the occasion.

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MoS home’s son Ashish Mishra sent to judicial custody for 14 days

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Lakhimpur: Son of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra, Ashish Mishra, was produced before a court here late on the night of October 9, 2021, which sent him to 14-day judicial custody in connection with the October 3 Lakhimpur violence.

After around 12 hours of questioning in connection with the violence in which eight persons including four farmers were killed, a medical team examined Ashish Mishra in the crime branch office, after which he was taken for production before a judicial magistrate, who sent him to custody, senior prosecution officer SP Yadav.

He said an application for police remand of Ashish Mishra was submitted to the judicial magistrate who fixed it for hearing at 11 AM on October 11, 2021. Ashish Mishra was named in an FIR following allegations that he was in one of the vehicles that mowed down four farmers protesting over UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya’s visit last Sunday.

Farmer leaders and opposition parties had been demanding Mishra’s arrest but the minister and his son had denied the allegations.
Two BJP workers and their driver were allegedly lynched by angry farmers in the incident. Local journalist Raman Kashyap also died in the violence, which has triggered a political storm and put the BJP government on the back foot in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.

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Mayawati questions the Congress on the killing of Dalit in Rajasthan

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Lucknow: Selective outrage of the Congress is always criticised and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on October 10, 2021 took on the Congress and termed as “condemnable” the incidence of a Dalit person being beaten to death in Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh. The former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh questioned the silence of the Congress.

A Dalit man was allegedly beaten to death on October 7, 2021 by a group of men in Hanumangarh over his love affair, the Rajasthan police said. Three people have been detained in connection with the case on Saturday. There are several such cases on which the Congress keep blind eye.

Mayawati said: “Will the Chief Ministers of Chhattisgarh and Punjab go there and give Rs 50 lakh to the victim’s family? The BSP demands an answer, otherwise it should stop shedding crocodile tears in the name of the Dalits.”

On the Lakhimpur Kheri violence, she tweeted, “The cropping up of the name of the son of the Union minister in the Lakhimpur violence raises questions on the working style of the BJP government.” The BJP should sack the minister as only then will there be any hope of justice for the aggrieved farmers, she added.
Mayawati also said terrorists are killing innocent people almost everyday in Jammu and Kashmir, which is very sad and shameful. The BSP demands that the Centre should take some strong steps in this regard.

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