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IPL team owners want a better bargain now

cricket Updated: May 21, 2010 01:21 IST
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When MAK Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri finally “engage with” the Indian Premier League’s franchises, ahead of formulating the rules for what is expected to be the biggest and most-watched auction in sport later this year — the players’ auction for IPL IV — they are likely to be given a comprehensive wish-list by at least five franchises.

One of the big suggestions will be a cap on players’ salaries. “This basically means that if the total amount available to us is $8 million (Rs. 37.5 cr) we can’t go and spend an astronomical $4m (1.88cr) on one player,” a top franchise official told HT. “There should be a cap and it should be something reasonable, like $1.5m (Rs. 7cr).”

Another agreed, adding that it would also provide for “a level playing field”. “If there isn’t, we could have a Kieron Pollard-like situation, where things will be skewed in favour of the richer franchises.”

West Indian Pollard fetched the highest price in any IPL auction after four teams — Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore — all bid the maximum $750,000 (Rs. 3.5cr) for him in the pre-season III auction in January, necessitating the use of a contentious tie-breaker clause.

The Mukesh Ambani-owned Mumbai Indians then outbid the others (the winning amount was kept secret but is estimated to be between $2-2.5m, about Rs. 9.4 to 11.7cr). Pollard got $750,000, the remainder went to the IPL.

“The other rule that favours teams with more money was the blanket Rs. 20 lakh contract that could be given to any Indian player taken on board from the rebel Indian Cricket League. It was an unnatural cap, given that Shane Bond, also an ICL player, went for a million. It meant that it was never Rs. 20 lakh in the case of the better known players. It was always 20 lakh plus how much you can pay under the table, so the bigger offers would win out,” said the team official. “Transparency is a must to level the playing field and retain the charm.”

There is likely to be some amount of discussion on whether, if any, players can be retained by teams. While three of the franchises HT spoke to wanted the option of minimum retention (either one Indian and one foreigner or 2 +2), the others wanted “no retention” “It will be unfair to the new franchises,” said one, “because even if they are given the option of choosing two players for instance, that will be after 16 prized players are taken out of the equation”.

In any case, even the retention of one star player will “involve drama” according to one franchisee. “We’ll have to agree to terms and that won’t be easy, because a big name player might always opt to take a gamble on making more through an open auction.”

Another point that might come up is whether, in the light of exhausting international schedules and the fact that there will be 18 games per team next season instead of 14, India players will be restricted to, say, 14 games. “There’s been some talk on this,” said an official, “And if this is decided on, it might make sense to then have a fifth foreign player allowed for certain nominated games. You leave out one international and bring in another to redress the balance.”

Opinion on the contract period of players was divided, but franchises believe that while one year is too little, three (players in the first auction were contracted for three years) might be too long. “There should be a way of working out a two-year contract with the third year being optional,” said a franchise.

“This also ensures that the players are accountable for their performances,” said another. “After all, we’re running a business and in any business, the continuation of a contract is based on merit.”. Something that is likely to generate some heat amongst players and in the case of foreign players, their unions, is a potential suggestion that the medical liability of a franchise be limited. “At this point, if a player reports fit and then gets injured or becomes unfit for some reason and cannot play any game, we’ll still have to fork out 100 per cent of his contract. We feel for the player, and understand he’ll be losing earnings but there should be some median between 0 and 100 per cent,” said a franchise.

Some of these suggestions, in fact, had reportedly been tabled during a franchisee workshop in Bangkok last year-end, but they had been told that nothing could be done then as everything was in place for three years.

As that period is up, they are now waiting for Pataudi & Co to get in touch.