It's been two days since the Indian Premier League's Governing Council announced some crucial changes that will affect not merely how many matches will be played but also how players will be picked by teams. The addition of two new teams —Pune and Kochi — meant that the existing system needed to be tweaked. But, just how happy are the constituents with the new rules of their game?
Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan
Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir
Possibly no retention:
Punjab, Rajasthan, Hyderabad.
Shah Rukh Khan, an owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders, clearly isn't completely with the program. "New IPL rules a bit confusing. Two new teams added (good). All players should go into (auction) pool to make it fair for everyone. Simple & straight," was his instant reaction on Twitter.
But things in the IPL are seldom simple and rarely straight.
It's now emerging that at least two teams — Chennai and Mumbai — were keen to retain their superstars. The Mumbai Indians' identity is synonymous with Sachin Tendulkar, just as the player's identity is so proudly associated with his city. The Chennai Super Kings have built both their cricketing and marketing identities around Mahendra Singh Dhoni so much that you can see why they'd want to keep the Indian skipper — at any cost.
But what about the rest?
Oddly enough, when the eight franchises met in Bangkok last year, seven were of the opinion that all players should go back into an auction pool, with only Chennai opposing.
It's easy to see why the issue of player retention, which is essentially catering to Indian cricketers who have a strong sense of identity matters so little to a majority of teams.
"While Shah Rukh's latest statement suggests he's not madly keen to retain Sourav Ganguly, it's hard to see how he won't be convinced otherwise by those in charge of marketing his team," a source close to KKR said. "The reaction at Eden Gardens won't be pretty if Shah Rukh lets Sourav go."
At the Delhi Daredevils, the story is a bit different.
"They will want to keep Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, and maybe one more player inhouse," said someone in the know of developments. "But equally it depends on what discussions happen with the players."
The Kings XI Punjab have not seen eye to eye with Yuvraj Singh, but rumours abound that the team has either been sold or is in the process of being sold. With this being the case, it's hard to know what the owners think.
The Deccan Chargers keep dropping VVS Laxman from the XI and the Rajasthan Royals don't have a home-grown player to fight for. The Royal Challengers Bangalore won't worry too much about their being a huge clamour from others to snap up Rahul Dravid or Anil Kumble, though they could be keen to retain someone like Robin Uthappa.
It's early days yet, because teams have been forced back to the drawing board. What's eminently clear, however, is that the retention policy (keeping 4 players costs $4.5 million) in conjunction with the salary cap ($9million) will see a correction in wages for many players.
If you don't understand exactly how the system works, don't fret. Even the man who originally devised the league is studying the new proposals.
"From the press info that has flowed in — I hope that they have missed something, and what's reported is not the whole scheme," said Lalit Modi on Twitter as soon as details were announced a couple of days back. "Will give u my thoughts on the new player retention and new game format after studying it completely."
Having heard nothing from him since, it's safe to infer he's still trying to work out how things will pan out.