Controversy could fatten Ponting's bank balance

Controversy could fatten Ponting's bank balance, By Nick Walshaw - 10th Jan 2008
(Credit: The Daily Telegraph)

Whan an Indian bank recently advertised their Sign to Dine with Ricky Ponting campaign, the response was overwhelming.

Countless enquiries, submissions from the rich, piles of signed miniature bats moving out the door with each new account.

"Because India is such a cricket hungry nation," Sateesh Kumar explains from his ING Vysya office in Bangalore. "We've used Ponting, Brian Lara, Anil Kumble . . . cricketers with talent become icons here."

But exactly how many bats would Punter need to scribble on this week - after playing a lead role in the greatest Aussie cricket scandal since Bodyline?

It's a question worth asking as the man with a role long regarded as second only to the Prime Minister comes under attack.

Like on Tuesday, when an exclusive poll by The Daily Telegraph revealed 83 per cent of readers consider Ponting a poor ambassador.

Just the start of an unrelenting tirade of criticism, burning effigies and even a call for his head. How does that affect his back pocket?

"But it was Groucho Marx who said any publicity is good publicity," laughs celebrity agent Max Markson. "And I honestly believe that's the case here with Ricky Ponting.

"Controversy attracts interest. Interest attracts money.

"A fortnight from now people will only remember the name Ricky Ponting. He'll earn more money as a result."

Yep, crazy as it sounds, this past week of drama could prove to be the best earn of Punter's life.

A boon for this superstar who Sweeney Sports recently listed as our most marketable athlete. A bloke who boasts $2.5 million annually from sponsors like Valvoline and Kookaburra.

"Because Ponting is no mug," says Greg Tingle of Media Man, "he could make anything up to $500,000."

Sydney agent Lauren Miller agrees, adding there's "no way Ricky will suffer financially".

But what about the subcontinent - home to those burning effigies, scathing website vitriol and threats to make any Indian Premier League experience as painful as possible?

Even The Hindu newspaper this week carried a piece demanding corporations suspend all dealings with the Australian cricketers.

While highly unlikely, the threat places pressure on all Aussie cricketers with financial ties to the subcontinent.

Topping the list with is Brett "Binga" Lee.

A celebrity whose extensive Indian sponsors includes Pharmacare, Deakin University, Timex and Neo Television.

"But Brett has been successful for a long time in India and we don't expect that to change," manager Neil Maxwell explains. "I mean, he certainly hasn't been scarred personally as far as the current scenario is concerned. "

Speaking from the Sydney set of Victory, a Bollywood movie in which Lee plays a key role, producer Anu Sharma says the bond between Binga and India is "unbreakable".

"Because you need to remember cricket and film are like religions over there," Sharma explains. "So when Brett Lee is playing cricket and starring in films . . . well, there isn't a scandal out there to stop him."



Ricky Ponting