Batting gloves – check. Pads – check. Cricket Australia branded stubby holders – check.

Yep, it now seems that every cricketer’s kit bag has expanded its list of must-haves, with a device that guards your hands against the nasty chill of your beer now deemed every bit as important as the gear that protects you from 150kmh Steve Harmison thunderbolts.

But for the cynical among us, it might be suggested that the inclusion of this delicate beer drinker’s best friend as standard-issue has also been done to protect the interests of the sponsors of the biggest summer game in town.

Take a look at the wonderful post-match pics taken in the Aussie dressing rooms after the Perth Test and you’ll see what we mean. Mike Hussey, Andrew Symonds and Stuart Clark are all freely showing off their VB stubbies – with VB, of course, the highly visible sponsor of cricket in this country – while the obviously more “yuppie” Glenn McGrath, Matt Hayden and Brett Lee are partaking in what appears to be a Corona (in Lee’s case, with slice of lemon, if you don’t mind!).

Cricket Australia and Foster’s spokesmen both laughed off the concealed Coronas as a “happy coincidence”, with Foster’s media man Troy Hey adding: “If you’re going to be ambush marketed you’d rather have it from one of your own products (Foster’s-owned CUB holds the distribution rights to Corona in this country).”

Michael O’Connell, managing director of media analysis and monitoring company, the Media Research Group, agrees that the appearance of the Corona brand wouldn’t have made much difference to Foster’s elation at the free exposure offered by the post-match revelry.

“I don’t think Foster’s would have been disappointed with the fact that some players are not drinking their preferred product,” O’Connell said.

“That picture, in its various forms, has been picked up by the majority of papers in the both the Fairfax and News Limited stables, not to mention the amount of coverage achieved in regional press.”

O’Connell says that the equivalent dollar value of that coverage could possibly run into the hundreds of thousands, with an added bonus being the Melbourne Age’s decision to slightly rework the trusty VB slogan to “For a hard urned thirst” on the cover of yesterday’s sports lift-out.

Peter Fray

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