The most striking feature of the IPL auction is all teams will be smiling while boarding flights out of Bangalore, happy their carefully constructed strategies were successful. The franchises are relieved that they have the players they wanted, mostly at prices they wanted. That is why this common feeling of warmth.
It wasn’t like this earlier. Previous auctions saw bidding wars, clash of strategies, panic moves and crazy buys. This time, the auction was more organised where everyone looked composed and in control of the situation.
The reason for this was the franchises had clear plans about the team they wanted and players they required. With focus strictly on select players, the auction was business-like. The Rajasthan Royals were, as usual, careful with their money, picking low-value talented players. Mumbai and Super Kings (having retained a core group) built a squad around them. Delhi (having retained nobody) made choices with freedom, using their full purse.
The wow moment in the otherwise sedate auction came when Bangalore splurged almost 25% of their entire `60 crore budget on Yuvraj Singh, a purchase not easy to explain with logic. Yuvraj is not the player he was three years ago, and his performance with Pune last season was unimpressive. Yet, he commanded a price much higher than his previous contract. Perhaps, an answer to this flash buy lies in the DNA of Bangalore, a team high on star quality, known for its explosive batting.
Apart from Yuvraj and Dinesh Karthik, the auction saw an interesting correction of prices of Indian players. Many, including Virender Sehwag, the Pathan brothers and Robin Uthappa saw a downward revision, and the dramatic case of Saurabh Tiwary, down from $1.6 million to `70 lakh.
India batsmen continue to be top draws but Cheteshwar Pujara, for all his recent success, attracted a meagre bid. No India bowler touched the `5 crore mark, surprisingly the biggest contract went to Amit Mishra, higher than Mohd Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma or Zaheer Khan.
The most heartening aspect of the auction was the strong interest in uncapped Indian talent whose salaries till now were artificially depressed.
Put into the auction for the first time, liberated from the unfair previous cap of `30 lakh, the market-driven process rewarded players with contracts above`1 crore.
The most spectacular beneficiaries were Karn Sharma (Railways spinner who had an ordinary Ranji season but was outstanding for the Sunrisers last year), Himachal all-rounder Rishi Dhawan and Maharashtra’s Kedar Jadhav.
The teams paid serious money for uncapped Indian talent on the condition that experience and performance are non-negotiable. That U-19 players were not in demand shows track record counts more than potential.
The writer is advisor, ministry of sports