Player auctions, like T20 itself, was considered a simple rush where teams went for marquee names, seduced into paying top dollar based on past reputations and track record.
Going into Season 6 of the IPL that perception has changed; slots are now filled after careful thought, more so as franchises have cut back on the number of players they hire. Player selection is decided after assessing cricket and commercial value, auction number crunching is not yet a precise science but surely it is no longer driven by gut feel, instinct or inspired intuition.
In Chennai, Glen Maxwell was a shock winner, his staggering million-dollar pay cheque a huge surprise considering he was released from the IPL only a few months back.
Teams have learnt from experience that big names can be big failures and a colossal waste of money. Which is why the subdued interest and single bids for Ponting and Clarke and some top names getting passed over without attracting a bid.
Central to the auction strategy of teams is the learning that it does not pay to splurge on player salaries and beyond a point any investment on securing a player, however celebrated, does not yield an economic return. After 5 IPLs, cricket gurus have realised financial profitability of the franchise depends on controlling player cost - if that shoots up, the balance sheet will only refelect red.
Given this fundamental truth the focus is on value picks, the trick is to find smart cricketers who have the potential and skills to perform in the pressure cooker environment of T20 cricket.
In a high-intensity game, with millions at stake, technique or looking pretty counts for nothing - the only yardstick is performance.