Indian captain Dhoni is conquering the sponsorship world

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni bats in game earlier this year.

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni bats in game earlier this year.

NORMAN DA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:11 AM ET

  Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s star continues to rise.
The wicket-keeper, who led India to the World Cup recently, has become one of the most marketable sports stars in the world, according to Britain’s SportsPro Magazine.
Hard to believe a cricketer would top tennis aces Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and basketball’s Kobe Bryant — but there you go.
Dhoni checks in at No. 10 on the list of the 50 most profitable sportspersons.
Jamaica’s Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt leads the field followed by NBA star LeBron James and soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) and Lionel Messi (Barcelona).      
The Indian captain endorses 23 brands, including Reebok, Pepsi and Lays and he has been guaranteed a minimum earning of $19 million (U.S.) over the next three years. 
“Although he will never attain quite the Messianic status that Sachin Tendulkar has with the Indian population, Dhoni has undeniably become the number-one choice for those looking to boost their brand in the south-eastern Asian country,” said magazine editor David Cushnan.
Another cricketer in the top 50 is Yuvraj Singh at No. 49. Yuvraj reportedly is paid as much as $1 million (U.S.) each by Reebok, Fiat and Seagram’s Royal Stag.
His other endorsements have apparently jumped some 30 per cent following his showing in the World Cup.  Bollywood could well be the next stop for these two icons.
FAREWELL WARNY
Shane Warne’s stellar 20-year international career that included a steady dose of women, wine and wickets came to a close on Friday.
The legendary Australian spin bowler bowed out of the game on a winning note by leading Rajasthan Royals to a 10-wicket win over Sachin Tendulkar’s Mumbai Indians. A capacity crowd jammed Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium to pay their respects to one of the greats of the game.   
He was the first bowler to take 700 wickets in Test cricket before his mark was topped by another great spinner — Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan. Muralitharan retired from international cricket following the World Cup.
Along taking wickets, the beer-guzzling 41-year-old Aussie managed to survive drug and bookmaking controversies and had a love life that was well chronicled. 
His current affair with British actress Liz Hurley assured him of wide media coverage in India.
Warne thanked the fans for the support he received during his career.
He now heads for a career that will include television commentaries, commercial work and coaching.
Tendulkar paid tribute to his great rival with whom he had many a battle.
“He is a true champion, a wonderful friend. I have not been privileged to play with him in the same team, but it’s been a real treat to play against him,” said Tendulkar.
“Congrats Warny for a wonderful career and I wish him all the luck for his future.”
AFRIDI BUNDLED OUT
The charismatic Shahid Afridi led Pakistan to the World Cup semi-finals before his inexperienced team saw its run ended by eventual champion India.
It was Afridi’s shrewd cricketing brain and his extraordinary ability to mesmerize the opposition with his leg spin that was paramount in Pakistan’s showing.
He then led his ODI team to a 3-2 series win over West Indies two weeks ago.
His reward? The Pakistan cricket board stripped him of the captaincy.
The decision was taken by PCB chairman Ijaz Butt after Afridi voiced his concerns to the press over coach Waqar Younis’ interference in selection matters.
Misbah-ul-Haq will now lead the team for the two matches against Ireland on May 28 and 30.
Afridi, who is in the U.S. for charity work and to look after his father who is being treated there, is guaranteed of his place on the team if he so wishes. Afridi’s demotion will only fuel more discord in the camp as he was popular among his players.
That’s a pity as mismanagement in Pakistan does its best to hamper the sport. 
CHA CHING, CHA CHING
Players lucky enough to play in the lucrative Twenty20 Indian Premier League are making a small fortune. Now they can pad their incomes even more with the birth of the Sri Lankan Premier League that starts on July 19.
As many as 12 Indian stars have been picked and 33 other internationals have been approached. You can be assured none of them will turn down the offer.
Kieron Pollard and Chris Gayle of the West Indies wasted no time in signing up nor did Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Akmal.
The IPL has deliberately excluded Pakistanis as a result of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008. Also headed for the island sunshine are Aussie David Warner and South Africans Albie Morkel and Herschelle Gibbs
RAPID-FIRE WICKETS
England’s Tim Bresnan will miss all three Test matches against touring Sri Lanka. The medium-pacer aggravated a calf muscle injury. He hopes to recover in time for the next series versus India in July ... Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe, who is 48, is contemplating returning to first-class cricket after an absence of 15 years. Let us hope he is kidding ... Essex’s Graham Napier swung his willow with a vengeance against Surrey Wednesday, hammering 16 sixes on his way to a 130-ball 196. He equalled Aussie Andrew Symonds first-class record for most sixes for Gloucestershire against Glamorgan in 1995.


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