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Stars don't make teams anymore

cricket Updated: Jan 10, 2011 01:35 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal
Hindustan Times
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Dan Christian vs Chris Gayle. Isn't it even silly to think of making a comparison? Christian is still an unknown commodity outside the Australian domestic circuit while Chris Gayle is an international giant.

But, the Indian Premier League team owners have it all figured out. They have worked out exactly who will be better value for their money. Christian was the big winner on the second day of the IPL auction in Bangalore, pocketing $900,000 from Deccan Chargers while Gayle went unsold.

The contrast in demand for Christian and Gayle, as illustrated by the auction on Sunday, provided a good case study for the change between the inaugural IPL auction three years ago and 2011.

The new trend that has come out strongly is that only performers are in demand. It's no surprise that the highest amount has gone to Gautam Gambhir. He' been consistent and has shown great potential as a leader.

The first time around, the teams looked to build their brand value around big international names. This time, the franchises have developed their entire set-up around the performing Indian players.

The Gangulys, Dravids, Laxmans were the icons in 2008. At Bangalore on Saturday and Sunday, the great left-handed batsman Brian Lara remained unsold while Jharkhand's southpaw Saurabh Tiwary was picked up for USD 1.6million.

At the first auction, the teams had lapped up all the Australian internationals even though they were available for only four matches.

What came out clearly in Bangalore was that the franchises were out to build their brands around a winning combination. Even the two new franchises had their priorities clear.

It seems everyone had learned from Kolkata Knight Rider's disastrous experience with star names. If the results are not coming, the bigger the names, the bigger the fall.

Form availability, T20 skills and combination dictated the pattern of the 2011 bidding.

It was interesting to see how the money was spent - some big salaries for the internationals, but what was really intriguing was how fierce the bidding for the young Indian players got. It means the brand building exercise has been centred around our own. This is obvious from the high prices even for bowlers like L Balaji, Vinay Kumar and Murali Karthik.

Also, unlike last time, when Deccan Chargers were clearly the best side on paper, there are no clear cut favourites this time. Most teams have a mix of players.

"The owners have been very clever in their bidding. The selection has been on the basis of merit, and player's form," Alyque Padamsee, the top advertising professional, observed.

"No completely unknown players have come out of the auction. When the IPL first started we had a bunch of completely new youngsters, this time they had everything worked out," another ace adman Prahlad Kakkar said.

"That big names like Gayle have remained unsold means there has been some method in madness, when people have to put their hands in their pockets, then they consider every possible angle," said Kakkar.

It's clear, big names don't fool anyone in the IPL market anymore. It's only about runs and wickets against their names.