One big difference the IPL has made to Indian cricket is that the players' career is no longer dependent on the judgment of the five selectors or the captain and coach of the Indian team. You can live up to your true value despite being in their bad books.
Yuvraj Singh couldn't settle in the national team set-up post his serious illness, lost his place in both the Test and one-day sides, yet his market value is undiminished. Yuvraj commanded the biggest price at the 2014 IPL auction held in Bangalore on Wednesday when the Royal Challengers Bangalore bid Rs. 14 crores for the all-rounder.
As revealed by owner Dr Vijay Mallya, the franchisee went all out for the player at the recommendation of their captain Virat Kohli. There is cricketing merit behind it too - in Twenty20 internationals, Yuvraj has been the man of the match in four of India's last six T20 games.
Similar was the case with Virender Sehwag. He's going through the worst slump of his career, but he still commanded a price of Rs. 3.2 crores from Kings XI Punjab.
The surprise big gainer of the day was Dinesh Karthik with Delhi Daredevils bidding as high as 12.5 crore to get him.
True to predictions, Kevin Pietersen commanded a huge price of Rs. 9 crores. Sunrisers Hyderabad bid the amount, but Delhi Daredevils chose to exercise their right to match card and get him back.
Having chosen not to retain any player, Delhi Daredevils had a full purse of Rs. 60 crores at their disposal, and expectedly they dominated the auction. India's Test opener Murali Vijay was also bagged by the Daredevils for Rs. 5 crore. Vijay, earlier with Chennai Super Kings, was the first cricketer to go under the hammer.
Kings XI Punjab, having retained only two players, were the other team to make big buys. They walked away with the prized catches of Mitchell Johnson and Glenn Maxwell, apart from Shaun Marsh and George Bailey. Apart from Sehwag, they had a smart buy in Thisara Perera.
Cheteshwar Pujara may have broken into the one-day side but it will take some time before he wins over the confidence of the T20 market and the Test star went relatively cheap for Rs. 1.9 crores, bought by Kings XI.
The Knight Riders also went into the auction with a healthy purse, but they made some surprising buys. Jacques Kallis and Robin Uthappa were their big buys at Rs. 5.5 and Rs. 5 crores respectively.
There was some resentment among the franchises about the IPL governing council's decision to allow teams to retain up to six players (one through Right to Match card), but it has proved to be a level playing field. With those not retaining getting the players they wanted in the auction, the next season should be more competitive among the eight teams.
Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians had the advantage of retaining their core group, but at the auction they failed to make a splash. They were outbid on occasions, like MI went hard for Maxwell, but left it at Rs. 5.5 crores. Corey Anderson, Pragyan Ojha, and Michael Hussey were Mumbai's big catches among the hot picks. CSK's gain of the day was Brendon McCullum for Rs. 3.25 and Faf du Plessis for Rs. 4.75 crores.
There were no takers for the Sri Lankan and England players, mainly because the two teams are scheduled to play a series in May, which puts a question mark over their availability. Even the legendary Mahela Jayawerdene, who captained Daredevils last year, went unsold.
Post-lunch, the auction turned very slow with majority of players going unsold.
Daredevils senior official, TA Sekar, attributed it to team management's getting wiser. "No team will buy 27 players this time, it will be roughly around 20. I was present for all the auctions and now the teams have a better understanding of building their squads and have specific strategies in place for the auction."
Sekar said it was not a fallout of the betting controversy which hit the last IPL and the Mudgal Committee's findings on it. "It's not because of the controversy, allegations happen in every sport. It's unfortunate, but we are protective."