Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  

India cricket team worth 70m dollars

India's cricket team will be sponsored for a whopping 3,130 million rupees (70 million dollars) over the next four years, an official said on Tuesday.

Indian domestic airline Air Sahara, a subsidiary of the national team's current sponsors Sahara India group, won an open bid invited by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The deal marks a large increase from the previous sponsorship agreement of 780 million rupees (17 million dollars) for the last three years, BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah said.

It covers a minimum of 44 Test matches and 110 one-day internationals the Indian team will play over the next four years, starting with the tour of Pakistan from January 6.

"Team India is a brand on the rise and very popular with sponsors," Shah told AFP. "We are very satisfied with the deal."

The players will wear the Air Sahara logo on the chest and arm at matches and during practice and travel.

Sahara India spokesman Abhijit Sarkar said the company was delighted to renew its contract with the Indian team.

"Sahara today is synonymous with Indian cricket," he said. "We got value for money during the deal that is coming to an end now."

The new BCCI regime, headed by political heavyweight Sharad Pawar, hoped to raise another 80 million dollars a year through the sale of television rights for international matches in India.

Bids for the TV rights will be finalised by the end of the month, Shah said.

Cricket-mad India, with huge television audiences, is the biggest market for the sport in the world.