OPINION | IPL auction: Teams will try to justify big spends now
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OPINION | IPL auction: Teams will try to justify big spends now

The IPL auction is cricket’s award night where careers are made or dashed – those who luck out laugh to the bank in celebration, the spurned shed tears of sorrow.

cricket Updated: Dec 12, 2018 09:30 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times
IPL,IPL 2019,IPL auction
File image of the IPL auction.

It is that time of the year when cricketers feel like students, deeply anxious about an upcoming exam that will impact their future. The IPL annual action is round the corner and, having filed their papers, cricketers await results with prayers on their lips.

The IPL auction is cricket’s award night where careers are made or dashed – those who luck out laugh to the bank in celebration, the spurned shed tears of sorrow. The auction is riveting theatre produced by the dance of cricket’s sensex that determines the worth of players. Its size and scale adds to the drama -- this time 1000 players (including from Hong Kong and Mizoram) compete for 70 slots. Money on the table: Rs 160 crores.

Unlike previous years, there is uncertainty surrounding IPL 2019. Dates are yet to be announced but it must end by mid-May because of the ICC World Cup. A big concern here is the general election next year whose schedule could force the IPL to shift overseas, a last resort option that undermines the commercial appeal of the league.

Besides dates, there are other challenges for the IPL. The BCCI is in administrative free fall having lost control and IPL’s Governing Council is dysfunctional. Just when stable leadership was required, there is what experts describe as a huge gap between bat and ball.

STRATEGIC GAME

While administrators grapple for control, IPL team owners are ready for the auction with precise planning.

All auctions have dynamics that can’t be conquered but teams have crunched numbers and carefully mapped players’ skills/technique/temperament/attitude and intent. Gone are the days of intuitive bids and indiscriminate binge buying. Each purchase now must satisfy a specific team need.

Price, it is learnt, does not guarantee performance and splurging on a player can be counterproductive from a cricketing and commercial standpoint. Last auction’s big buys (Ben Stokes, Glenn Maxwell, Jaydev Unadkat) hardly justified their investment.

Given this empirical data, teams are reluctant to spend crores on Yuvraj, Manish Pandey or Pawan Negi. It is understood that the cost-benefit analysis beyond a certain price point is negative, and the high price tag itself becomes a burden.

Cricketers who talked about scoreboard pressure now also mention ‘contract value tension’ citing Tymal Mills, someone crushed by the weight of his salary cheque.

CHOICEST ONES

Genuine talent of course stands to be rewarded. All-rounders (Andre Russell, Shane Watson, Jadeja and the Pandya brothers) death over experts (Joffra Archer, Andrew Tye, Bhuvi, Bumrah) and finishers (Dinesh Karthik, Raina, Pollard) come at a steep cost. When slow bowlers had apparently been smashed out of this format, ‘mystery’ spinners and leggies (Rashid Khan, Mujib, Kuldeep, Chahal, Sandeep Lamichhane, Markande) made significant contributions.

This auction will throw up strange numbers, as auctions always do. Sam Curran, Jonny Bairstow, Hetmyer, Ahmad Shahzad could trigger bidding wars but players must pass two basic tests: availability (World Cup dates a key) and ability (key skills: tackling slow bowlers on slow pitches).

As the game gets speedier, the underlying thread in this auction is to build a squad around young Indian talent -- and what better example than under-19 pacer Kamlesh Nagarkoti. Bought last year for Rs 3 crores by KKR he missed the IPL because of injury. Hasn’t played any cricket this season but still retained.

No such dream exam for 1000 others!

(The writer is a senior sports administrator and views are personal)

First Published: Dec 12, 2018 09:29 IST