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Going hammer and tongs

cricket Updated: Jan 08, 2011 01:48 IST
N. Ananthanarayanan
N. Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The effect of the tumultuous events over the last one year, triggered by its flamboyant and controversial ex-chairman, is still being felt.

As the Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off a fresh edition with another star-studded player auction at the weekend, even the rare few, who didn't think much about the newest form of cricket and its commercial trappings, will keenly watch every single move by its high-profile franchise owners.

The central figure Lalit Modi, who was removed from his post in the wake of charges of serious financial irregularities and is now based in London, will surely have more than a casual interest in the proceedings at the Taj Gardenia hotel over the next two days. The cricket board and its IPL governing council will, however, look to provide fresh momentum to the league to regain credibility with the fans and stakeholders.

The number of franchises has been expanded by two to 10 this time but that was finalised only after the drama off the pitch even surpassed the exciting action Twenty20 cricket usually throws up.

Both Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab could participate in the auction featuring 353 players — 47 Indian players apart from 75 from Australia — only after the Mumbai High Court ruled in their favour in their dispute with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which had disqualified both teams in a dispute over their ownership patterns.

Out of the two new teams, Kochi, the trigger for the spat between Modi and former union minister of state Shashi Tharoor last year, somehow managed to sort out its ownership squabble. Their choice of Australian Geoff Lawson as coach could be apt as the former paceman has the experience of handling a Pakistan side in perennial crisis. Shane Warne, the inspirational captain of RR, is expected to be in touch with the franchise owners from Australia as they wade through their picks.

Last year's champions Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians have both retained four players each -- the maximum permitted -- but the franchise officials have gone into a huddle whispering to themselves as they plot and plan their prospective picks, closely guarding their “wish list”.

Seven of the teams have the full quota of $9m to use up but the process is still bound to be tricky and officials have been very guarded with information.

Unlike the first two editions where the big names picked themselves, the teams have wisened up to the fact that not every major performer can excel in T20. That will be one key aspect that will decide who each franchise plumps for.

Although both CSK and MI have exhausted half of their resources, the teams provide a different spin. “We’ve to use the $4.5m judiciously in buying players,” a CSK insider told HT. “Anyway we would not have got all these players for $4.5m.”

With just hours to go, some of the franchises are worried over the way the board has held back domestic uncapped players from the auction. The BCCI has decided it would allow franchises to pick them at a future date but teams feel the move, instead of adding them to the auction pool, would lead to behind-the-scenes manoeuvres.

Not everyone was worried: “The IPL has clearly earmarked the maximum franchises can pay. Officially no one can offer more," said a team official. Maybe the catch lies in the word “official”.

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