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Indian Premier League player auctions likely to be hit by economic dip

Indian Premier League (IPL), nine years since its glitzy start, is in correction mode. Central to this process is downsizing and cost-cutting and the axe is set to fall on unrealistic player buys.

cricket Updated: Feb 16, 2017 12:21 IST
Amrit Mathur
Sweeping changes that recently rocked the Indian economy have triggered tremors that also impact the Indian Premier League (IPL). And in this situation, it is likely big stars take a hit (pay cut) in cricket’s version of demonetisation, as the league goes through downsizing and cost-cutting.
Sweeping changes that recently rocked the Indian economy have triggered tremors that also impact the Indian Premier League (IPL). And in this situation, it is likely big stars take a hit (pay cut) in cricket’s version of demonetisation, as the league goes through downsizing and cost-cutting.(Getty Images)

After scoring a quick 50 in the second innings of the Hyderabad test against Bangladesh, Cheteshwar Pujara said the innings was importantto change the perception about his batting in the shorter format. Seen in the context of the upcomingIndian Premier League (IPL) player auctions, this remark highlights Pujara’s plight. He is the only front-line Indian cricketer without an IPL contract, and clearly this rejection hurts.

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It is unlikely that Pujara’s T20 career will get rebooted at the IPL auctions in Bengaluru. Nine years since its glitzy start, the market-driven IPL bazaar is in correction mode. Central to this process is downsizing and cost-cutting. The axe is set to fall on unrealistic player buys.

IMPACT OF ECONOMICS

Not just Pujara,there could be depressing news for other Indian cricket stars. Sweeping changes that recently rocked the Indian economy have triggered tremors that also impact the IPL. And in this situation, it is likely big stars take a hit in cricket’s version of demonetisation.

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Just as 1000 rupee notes ceased to be legal tender, established stars who commanded top rupee in the past could find their stock drastically devalued. Gone are the days of crazy bids when teams paid Rs. 16 crore for Yuvraj and Rs. 8.5 for Pawan Negi. Franchise owners have realised that trophy buys that consume a large slice of the Rs. 66 crore player purse make no cricket or economic sense. The distilled experience of 9 IPL seasons suggests nobody, just nobody, deserves that kind of a pay cheque.

STARS NOT EVERYTHING

Earlier, owners green-lighted splashy purchases in the belief that stars would excite sponsors, drive ticket sales and sell merchandise. But such hopes were consistently belied; only Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have genuine economic ‘pull’.

Gate revenue is practically unrelated to star presence because fans are attracted by the IPL spectacle and not excessively fussed about teams. And merchandise sales have turned out to be a bad joke because brand loyalty is weak and this revenue stream is in a perpetual state of drought.

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Like T20 itself, player auctions are known to be batsmen-friendly with the hammer favouring Indian talent. Compared to Karun Nair (Rs. 4cr) and Manan Vohra (Rs. 3.5 cr), bowlers merit lesser amounts and it will be interesting to see the financial fate of released players who are on offer again. Will Ishant Sharma (R3.5 cr), Karn Sharma (Rs. 3.75cr), Nathu Singh (Rs. 3.2cr), Rishi Dhawan (Rs. 3cr), Varun Aaron (Rs. 2cr), Irfan Pathan (Rs. 1cr), Parvez Rasool (Rs. 95 lakh) match their earlier numbers?

This is difficult to call considering auctions are more notoriously uncertain than the filmi box office. But one consolation for those who don’t luck out is that the original hammer price of Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal and Jayant Yadav was Rs 10 lakh, which is IPL’s minimum wage!

(The views expressed are personal)