Ever since the launch of the Indian Premier League (IPL), organisers of the money-spinning Twenty20 league have emphasised the need for restriction on each team's expenditure for buying players to maintain a "level-playing field".
However, after the opening season when the eight teams went into the player auction with a purse of $ 5 million, the cap has been reduced to a farce. While the teams were allowed to spend up to $ 2 million for the second player auction in 2009, last year's auction exposed the biggest farce when it came to salary cap.
With only 11 slots up for grabs, the the franchises were allotted an upper limit of $ 750,000 but the IPL introduced a further tie-break where teams which were tied had to make an additional secret bid to buy the player. This meant Mumbai Indians and the Kolkata Knight Riders spent at least double the $ 750,000 to buy Keiron Pollard and New Zealand’s Shane Bond respectively.
Come IPL 4 and this farce has been exposed even more. First, the IPL set a total cap of $ 9 million for the whole squad of up to 30 players. It allowed the existing eight franchises to retain up to four players, but reduced the auction cap. Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings who retained four players each went into the auction with a limit of $ 4.5 million. But just because their auction cap was reduced, it did not mean the teams had to pay those players the entire $ 4.5 million.
"The IPL Governing Council came up with a formula that if you retain the first player $1.8 million will be deducted from your packet, if you retain the second then $1.3 million will be deducted and so on," Royal Challengers Bangalore owner Vijay Mallya said after the glitzy and highly anticipated two-day auction concluded in Bangalore on Sunday. "But never once did the IPL say that we are obliged to pay the same amount to the players, so it is quite possible that while $1.8 million will be deducted from my auction purse, I need not be paying that player $1.8 million. The IPL is really not concerned with that part of it."
This effectively means the IPL gave franchises a free hand to pay the retained players. According to the buzz in the IPL fraternity, Mumbai Indians - who retained Sachin Tendulkar, Lasith Malinga, Keiron Pollard and Harbhajan Singh - and Chennai Super Kings - who retained Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Albie Morkel and Murali Vijay - have spent anywhere between $8 and 12 million to retain these four players.
Add to this the case of domestic uncapped players and it is proved beyond doubt the salary cap just doesn't exist. From this season, the IPL has introduced a cap for Indian players who haven't broken into the national squad. Based on their experience in domestic cricket, they could be paid salaries of Rs. 10, 20 or 30 lakhs. Had the players and the franchises stuck to the clauses, we wouldn't have witnessed Siddhartha Mallya, son of the RCB owner, flying to Vadodara on Monday to woo Ambati Rayudu into switching to the Bangalore outfit from Mumbai Indians.
Rayudu, eligible for Rs. 30 lakh per year, has apparently agreed to a Rs. 80 lakh per annum deal with the Mumbai Indians. And the buzz on Monday was that RCB offered him an eight-figure deal to switch loyalties in their favour.
If someone like Rayudu is paid thrice the amount he is eligible for and yet only a fixed amount is reduced from the salary purse, where does the cap exist? On paper.