In India, cricket takes on Chinese characteristics

Updated 2018-03-18 13:11:00 China Daily

India's two prime passions-movies and cricket-have had a head-on collision with China in recent times, and both sides seem to be better off for it.

As globalization faces head winds and trade protectionism is increasingly being used, here's vindication for the votaries of cultural and commercial exchanges.

First, Bollywood. The story of cinema in China last year was the incredible run of Dangal, a biopic of a former wrestler who leads his daughters to wrestling glory in the Commonwealth Games. It made a record 6 million at the box office, far surpassing million it garnered in India and set records for foreign films in China.

What followed was an even bigger surprise. Secret Superstar, about a 14-year-old girl who dreams of being a singer and produced by the lead actor of Dangal, raked in 8 million, many times more than the million it made in India.

Then, this year the Spring Festival holiday sprang another: Bajrangi Baijaan depicts an ardent devotee of the Hindu deity Hanuman who embarks on an arduous journey to take a mute 6-year-old Pakistani girl, separated in India from her parents, back to her hometown in Pakistan. Despite being released almost three years earlier in India, it made more than million-slightly less than half of the Indian takings.

Social commentators have waxed eloquent on how art transcends national barriers and languages, and how shared Asian values embodied in Indian films strike a chord in China.

And what is striking sweet chords for China is what is happening in Indian cricket-the quaint rules and traditions that I have never been able to explain to the Chinese, or for that matter, anyone from outside countries once governed by the British.

India has by far the world's biggest franchise-based cricket league, with revenue exceeding the total of all other cricket leagues in the world. Its title sponsor is Vivo, the Chinese smartphone maker. Previous sponsors include international beverage giant Pepsi. Vivo bid million a year for the privilege of being a prefix for the IPL.

The main jersey sponsor of the Indian national cricket team is a Chinese competitor: Oppo. The smartphone maker is reported to have paid about 0 million in a five-year deal to have its logo emblazoned on cricketers' shirts.

Rival Chinese brand Gionee has signed on the Indian cricket team captain, Virat Kohli, as its brand ambassador. Kohli was recently ranked No 7 on the Forbes list of 10 most valuable athletes in 2017, and at .5 million, he was placed ahead of popular soccer player Lionel Messi.

Last year, Gionee was one of the key sponsors of the Bengaluru franchise in addition to the Kolkata team-its kit donned by two of the eight teams in the league.

So Kohli will don the Oppo national jersey, play in the Vivo-sponsored Indian league, lead a league team sponsored by Gionee and personally endorse Gionee.

And only this week, the Indian media has had breathless coverage of the March 13 launch of several models by Xiaomi (which is believed to have lost out in the bid for title rights in the cricket league).

All this visibility has propelled Chinese phones to the top of the smartphone league in India, with their brands occupying four of the top five slots for the last quarter of 2017 and Xiaomi topping the charts.

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