Investors In Cricket joins forces with DD, Zee, Miditech for cricket based reality show

MUMBAI: With new sports channels coming in it is inevitable that new formats will also come in. One such format is a cricket based reality show called Cricket Star.

This is an initiative to find a budding cricket star who has been bypassed by the system. The idea is the brainchild of Investors In Cricket (IIC) a firm that looks at sports rights relevant to the Asian subcontinent. This will be in the form of a reality hunt and will air as a television event for 11 weeks from 14 January 2007 on DD and Zee. DD and Zee Sports will each week simulcast three episodes. Zee TV will air an episode each week.Miditech has been roped in to produce the show. Airtel and HLL are the presenting sponsors. Aspiring cricketers can apply by calling 5052727 from GSM mobiles, 1277777 from MTNL landlines or 1255527 from MTNL and BSNL. One can also send an SMS CSTAR to 7575.

Eight selection centres are open and one has to showcase one's skills there, whether it is batting, bowling or wicket keeping. From there the chosen ones go to a pre academy phase. Finally 23 contestants will go to the Academy. There will be a countdown and thus an elimination process to find the winner.

The channel has roped in Kapil Dev and Saurav Ganguly as judges. The flamboyant Ajay Jadeja will be the expert analyst. IIC chairman Manoj Badale points out that after the event in India is finished it will travel abroad to the UK and Pakistan among other countries. "This marks the first time a cricket based reality show is launching in India. This marks the first time a reality show that has originated from India travels abroad. Normally it is the other way around.

This idea has taken a while to put together. We wanted the best possible reach, which is why we approached DD and Zee. DD as the national broadcaster can reach the small towns. Zee with its multi lingual channels will also help get the message across."

The winner gets an all expenses paid contract with Leicestershire County Cricket Club and cash. The final 11 contestants will also get a chance to participate in the rollout of Cricket Star in the UK next Summer and in Pakistan. Also, Cricket Star aspirants will play a series of 20:20 matches.These will air on Zee Sports.

When the 23 chosen contestants enter the cricket Star Academy each week the judges will nominate the four bottom performers out of whom two will be evicted by the participants., When it is down to the final 11 viewers will be able to vote by phone or through SMS. The final episode airs at the end of March 2007.

Miditech CEO Nikhil Alva points out that the challenge begins from today as the lines are now open. Whether or not it is as big as Indian Idol will depend on the response. "We are confident that with our previous experience we will be able to handle the logistics of the event. There will certainly be drama as viewers get to know the human side of the candidates in addition to their cricketing abilities.

Zee Sports business head Himanshu Mody says that this is the first time a format has brought cricket and television together in an entertaining manner. "We aim to find the hidden wonders in India's villages and towns And showcase them to the country along with their travails and struggles. At Zee Sports it has always been about showcasing sports and sportspersons from India. As they say may the best man or woman win."

Jadeja says that more than just a show this will also be a coaching platform for aspirants. Kapil Dev and Ganguly will offer advice to aspirants on how to improve their skills.

Ganguly sees this endeavour as a way to give back to the game for the opportunities it has given him. Dev says that every youngster who is passionate about the game should at least be given an opportunity. It should not be that a youngster feels that he/she could have made it but an opportunity was not given.

Airtel marketing director Gopal Vittal says, "In India cricket and Bollywood share a passion that cuts across geographies, cultures and religions. Today every street, nukkad or galli in this country has an enthusiastic budding cricketer waiting for an opportunity to perform on a bigger stage. Cricket Star offers them an opportunity to perform at the highest level."

HLL is involved through its product Faior And Lovely Mens Active. HLL VP Skin Care Ashok Venkatramani says, " Our product has already changed the story of male gooming in India. This association will catch the fancy of every male in India who aspires to get that opportunity to see themselves as the next Cricket Star.

This is our contribution to Indian cricket and we are certain that this will help discover the Sachin's Dhoni's, Pathan's Sehwags etc. Our support is a sure way of changing the story of Indian cricket and taking it to greater heights of glory.

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