The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been leading the metamorphosis of T20 cricket, infusing the newest format with a life of its own. While established stars were the focus of attention when this multi-million dollar league kicked off in 2008, young and athletic players who can contribute with the bat and ball as well as make a difference as fielders have taken over. The latest auction exemplified that reality. It was meant to be a low-key affair this year because players from all the teams are expected to go into the pool in the mega auction that will take place before the 2014 edition.
All-rounder Glenn Maxwell helps point to the future of franchise cricket. Mumbai Indians have picked the Australian for a staggering $1 million, even though the 24-year-old is yet to play 10 one-dayers or T20s. The dealings in a Chennai room also left South African all-rounder Chris Morris, 25, speechless, as Chennai Super Kings splurged $625,000 for the player who has just one international game against his name, with his T20 credentials only pointing to potential. This is pretty much the same with Australia's Kane Richardson ($700,000) and Sri Lankan off-spinner Sachitra Senanayake. The highest bid for an Indian player was for Mumbai all-rounder Abhishek Nayar, who was purchased by Pune Warriors India for $675,000, this one a reward for the experienced player, who will be playing for his third team. But by and large, unlike in the past when big names mattered, team owners are using auctions to find talent tailor-made for T20s and to prepare for contingencies, be it injury or the call of international duty.
Cricket purists and experts have been wringing their hands in despair, worried that the game's fundamentals are getting diminished and promising players are happy to collect fat pay cheques instead of putting in the hard yards. Some also feel Indian owners may not be prudent in their spending. But T20 has only been gathering pace with all major cricketing nations having their own leagues, franchise ones or otherwise.