MS Dhoni’s financial benefits will be protected regardless of his value in the Indian Premier League (IPL) player draft, which was officially closed at Rs 12.5 crore. India’s limited-overs skipper was snapped up as first buy by Pune, owned by New Rising, in the proceedings held in Mumbai on Tuesday.
The Intex-owned Rajkot responded by making his Chennai Super Kings teammate Suresh Raina their first pick, the proceedings done in just 15 minutes. Except for Dwayne Bravo, the process went off smoothly. The Rajkot officials were on the phone before deciding on the Caribbean all-rounder. At the draft, the accent was on batsmen and all-rounders, with R Ashwin the exception. No other bowler was in the first choice list of 10 players picked by the two new teams.
The focus was on Dhoni. Though BCCI tried to impress that the players, regardless of the amount fixed in the draft, will get exactly what they got in their previous contract, Dhoni’s case is different from the other picks.
It is learnt from sources in the IPL as well as the franchises concerned—Pune and Chennai Super Kings—that Dhoni’s financial benefits will be safeguarded in a calibrated way that also takes into account marketing. Rhiti Sports, which manages brand Dhoni and was also CSK’s marketing arm, is learnt to have got a continuation with the Pune franchise, in an almost similar capacity. All those brands riding on Dhoni --- with respect to CSK and overall endorsements --- will also be seen with the Pune franchise once he comes on board.
“Brand Dhoni cuts above all these small considerations; the aspect of the brand committed to cricket alone is capable of lending him the same stature. There is nothing odd if all the brands he endorses automatically move with his new association. And it is how the whole plan around his financial interest in the IPL is protected,” said a source familiar with the development.
It is entirely possible that Dhoni will be compensated --- paid what he was getting officially and unofficially from CSK. According to an insider, Dhoni is said to have been paid—his salary plus the unwritten contract with CSK about which even the IPL and the Board has no estimate of—in the region of Rs 28 crore. Now, with Rhiti likely to manage the marketing strategy of Pune, Dhoni is assured of his financial returns from the IPL.
IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla was asked to clarify whether the secret deals between players and franchises---bipartite, unwritten agreements couched in mystery--- are set to be encouraged again as the real salaries of some of the biggest players in the IPL are not given out, though they are an open secret. Shukla assured that the players will be paid only the salaries mentioned in their official contracts.
Although the BCCI has promised to post financial details of the new picks and the salaries of the entire pool of 50 players, it still may not impress everyone while tacit deals between players and franchises remain outside the BCCI’s purview.
And as long as that remains, officials insisting that the IPL auction and draft are above board will not be too convincing.