In IPL’s pick-and-discard routine, India players still winners
Cricket is uncertain but its Sensex—IPL’s auction bazaar—works in a manner more baffling. Mayank Agarwal, India’s latest sensation, is on a R1 crore contract, which is peanuts, far less than players not half as good as him are on.
IPL is a test for every cricketer in the true sense and November is that time of the year when players are on the edge. Transfers and release announcements make them behave like students worrying about exams and results.
Their anxiety is understandable because so much depends on these lists, especially for Indian cricketers whose career aim is to secure an IPL contract. For them, India’s domestic circuit is mere preparation for the big audition. IPL is what counts, it is the game-changing admit card which opens all doors. Unfortunately, for most players, IPL’s doors remain shut—few make the cut and the rest live in the hope of cracking the exam next season.
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Looking at the lists released, one feels sad not to find some names. Among them are real stalwarts who lit up the tournament with their brilliance. Yuvraj, Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa were champions who added huge value to the tournament.
Some retired Indian players (Yuvraj/Zaheer Khan) have an IPL after life with opportunities of playing in foreign leagues like Canada and Abu Dhabi. But for those whose cricket stocks have crashed, the game is over.
Next month, at the auction R207 crore will be spent as teams build their squads. Once again, new heroes will be discovered after intense scrutiny, number crunching, market intelligence and due diligence. Teams will chase finishers like Andre Russell who hit every third ball to the fence and the dream death bowler who holds his nerve to defend ten in the last over.
Each season raw talent is rewarded as scouts (spotters) detect spark in a new player. Shivam Dube was one such discovery—a relative unknown who landed a hefty contract but had a miserable year with nothing to show with bat or ball. Consider also Kamlesh Nagarkoti, the U-19 star bought for R3.2 crore who hasn’t played any cricket for almost two seasons; yet retained by KKR.
Often, auction prices are a punt because the paddle is raised not on account of reasoning but by a compelling inner voice. These instinctive bids are for ‘mystery’ players as teams search for the X factor. Varun Chakravarty attracted a crazy R8 crore bid, but sanity is restored with Kings XI releasing him.
Fate has also caught up with others who lucked out earlier. KC Cariappa, the Karnataka sensation, won’t be on the wish list of teams this year. Punjab wicket keeper Prabh Simran Singh (R4 crore) finds himself stumped and Bengal’s mystery leggie Prayas Ray Burman (R1.5 crore) realises others have sorted him out.
Market correction could hit Jaydev Unadkat too. Royals set a new high when they bid R11.5 crore for him, then released and re-bought him next year at R8.4 crore. The same drama may unfold this season because he is back in the auction. It would be interesting to see if Royals go for him a third time at a discounted price.
Surprisingly, price correction does not apply to Indian batting talent. Karnataka is the market leader here and it’s batting abundance rules IPL’s box office. KL Rahul and Manish Pandey are at R11 crore , K Gowtham at R6.2 crore and Karun Nair at R5.6 crore. In comparison, Shubman Gill, way lower like Mayank Agarwal at R1.5 crore, is no different than top-end designer wear in a season-ending clearance sale.
Teams though understand the value of strong Indian talent. Seven Indians in the eleven rule ensures there is too much demand chasing too little supply. Despite this scarcity, Delhi Capitals have done exceedingly well to stitch together a powerful coalition.
Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Ajinkya Rahane is a formidable batting unit. With Ashwin and Amit Mishra also in their ranks, DC have the right bowling for conditions at Kotla.
(The writer is a veteran sports administrator)