The IPL player retentions are on expected lines with the big teams keeping their main players by splurging a substantial part of their Rs 60 crore allocation. The Rajasthan Royals, however, are at the other end of the spectrum --it is unlikely they would have spent Rs 39 crores on retaining five and, given their strategy of value picks, will stitch together a squad in less than the Rs 21 crore they have left .
But behind the headlines of player announcements are some issues that remain unexplained. First, the core matter of why have retentions. Popular wisdom suggests this is critical for continuity, building a fan base and for avoiding confusion about which player is where.
Quite right, but this holds for mature leagues, not for an event that lasts a short while and then lapses into sleep mode. That is why even after six seasons, no IPL team has any fan base to speak off.
Brand building, creating loyalty or establishing connect with fans requires time and resources and for IPL teams both these are a challenge at present.
Retentions eliminate the uncertainty of an auction but are not without pitfalls. Here, price is determined through bilateral discussion and often there is a gap between the expectation of the player and financial appetite of teams.
Must be ‘joking’
The ‘joker card’ (the right to match a market decided price) is one way to resolve this impasse but here too there is a snag. Will a player, unable to close a price negotiation with his original franchise, happily fit into the team when picked through this mechanism? Will he carry a grudge about being spurned?
Player retention raises two other questions. One concerns the myth of the salary cap because IPL guidelines mandate a maximum spend of Rs 60 crore on players and then , very ingeniously, permit teams to pay ANY amount to the five chosen players and yet dock them arbitrary figures that total Rs 39 crore.
Put simply : there is an official salary cap, and there is an official way to breach it.
The other matter is about the suspense surrounding the contracts of retained players. While almost all IPL numbers are in the public domain, for some inexplicable reason the contractual value of players retained by teams remains shrouded in mystery.
The writer is advisor, sports ministry