For his legion of fans, the most recent memory of Mahendra Singh Dhoni on a cricket field is from the 2019 ODI World Cup. The 38-year-old has not played for India or at the domestic level after India’s semi-final defeat to New Zealand last July and the wait for his return has now increased with sports being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During that 2019 World Cup in England, one of the talking points around Dhoni was the different logos that appeared on his bat right though the tournament. The former India captain was seen playing with bats that had the logos of three different companies – SG, SS and BAS. In the age of sponsorship, this was odd from arguably India’s most marketable cricketer of the current generation.
Dhoni had started his career with Reebok logos on his bats. Of course, those were just stickers as Reebok doesn’t actually make top quality bats, but Dhoni stuck with them for a long time. He then signed a contract with Spartan in 2013 and used their logo on his bat for several years before the relationship fell through as reports emerged of the company defaulting on payments.
At the 2019 World Cup, Dhoni ended up doing what no cricketer usually does – use multiple logos on the bat in consecutive matches, sometimes even in the same match (as was seen during warm-up fixture).
Talking to Scroll.in, Paras Anand, Marketing Director of SG [Sanspareils Greenlands], said that there was a specific reason why Dhoni did that.
“Dhoni’s agent approached everybody for a contract before the 2019 World Cup,” he said.
“The level at which he was with the other brands that he was associated with [sticker sponsors like Reebok and Spartan], that amount of money no bat manufacturer could afford. Unfortunately, no big brand came forward because they may have thought that he will retire after the World Cup.
“Now, as far as SG, SS and BAS were concerned, he had an association with us from the start of his career. He started with BAS and then had a long partnership with SS. And then we also started servicing him irrespective of whether he was using our sticker. So the 2019 World Cup was his way of acknowledging us and saying thanks to the brands who supported him through his career,” added Anand.
“We were worried initially, we thought it wouldn’t send a good signal to the consumers. But eventually we realised that any publicity is good publicity.”
Jatin Sareen, Managing Director of SS, said that the thought of retirement did play a part in Dhoni deciding to acknowledge the various bat manufacturers.
“Through his career, when Dhoni was using bats that had sponsored stickers, many bat manufacturers looked after him,” Sareen told Scroll.in.
“Then around the 2019 World Cup, when he thought he was going to retire and finish his career, he thought of giving a tribute to all the manufacturers that have served him by using their bats with their logos.”