IPL Auction: Consistently Unpredictable
If I were to ask what is the most used word in India in the last four months the answer would inevitably be “demonitization.” At the IPL auction, however, there was simply no trace of it. Ben Stokes for 14.5 crores, Tymal Mills for 12 crores, T Natrajan for 3 crores, Kagiso Rabada for 5 crores, millions were spent by the franchise owners in a matter of hours ringing the opening bells of the tenth season of the Indian Premier League.
Are some of these buys justified? Is there a logical method to the madness? In an auction can there ever be a pattern to the spending? Finally, have the owners moved away from being emotional with their buys and learnt to take hard business calls keeping in mind the huge spends associated with the tournament?
Some decisions do appear ba f f li ng. Consider this: the best shorter format bowler in the world, Imran Tahir, who had a base price of 50 lacs did not find a buyer. This despite picking a five for just a day ahead of the auction. It is the Indian Premier League and yet players like Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan went unsold while Tymal Mills, little known to the Indian cricket public till the recently concluded T-20 series against England, went for a whopping 12 crores to RCB. In the absence of Mitch Starc, Virat Kohli’s team badly needed a left arm overseas quick and they found the perfect fit in Tymal Mills, said one of the senior members of the RCB management. To be fair, they are justified in their reasoning.
Going into the auction with a purse of 17.5 crores and having already taken the IPL world by storm by removing MS Dhoni as skipper, Rising Pune Supergiants yet again stole headlines spending a humungous 14.5 crores on the Englishman, Ben Stokes. Knowing full well that Stokes may not be available for the full tournament, many are questioning the prudence behind the spend. The franchise, however, is clear.
“It was a very conscious strategy and a collective one. We knew what we wanted and Ben Stokes belongs to that genre of player that we lacked in our inaugural season. He will win us games and at the moment we are looking at the 14 games and not beyond that”, says Sanjiv Goenka owner of RPSG.
There is little debate Stokes is the best all rounder in the world at the moment. Also, what many do not know is that there is a pro rata reduction in a player’s payment if he has to leave early. In essence, Pune may not have to pay Stokes the full sum if he leaves on 14 May with a week still to go for the tournament.
It is perhaps fair to say that there is one constant about the IPL and that is its unpredictability. Pawan Negi went for a massive 8.5 crores in 2016. He went for a modest 1 crore in 2017. Ishant Sharma, one of the best India has at the moment, did not find a buyer.
Contrast this with a whopping 3 crores spent for rookie fast bowler T Natrajan. All we know about him is that he can bowl at 140 clicks and has shown promise. Can he better Ishant and can he handle the pressure To see the amount of money spent at a time when there’s a supposed economic crisis in the country was startling to say the least of the IPL? None of these questions have answers yet but none of them will ever deter the franchises from opening up their purse for a player they are keen to buy.
“We came in with a very conscious strategy”, says Venky Mysore, the CEO of the Kolkata Knight Riders. “We wanted to add firepower to the side, which we have done if you see our buys. Our balance is perfect and we should yet again do well in the forthcoming season”.
Surprise package of the first season, the Gujarat Lions too seem happy with their buys. A delighted Keshav Bansal was all smiles and said, “We knew what we wanted and went ahead with our picks in a well thought out manner.”
Interestingly, every franchise owner you speak to will tell you the very same thing. Each one of them is happy with their buys and each one of them feel they have done the best. Yet at least two of them will end up seventh and eighth and will have a disastrous season ten!
This is not a piece intended to analyse t he st reng t hs a nd weaknesses of t he eight teams. Such a thing is impossible and should never be attempted. All that needs to be said is that the IPL continues to be robust as a brand and continues to surprise one and all. To see the amount of money spent at a time when there is a supposed economic crisis in the country was startling to say the least. Indian cricket, or more specifically the IPL, can face any crisis head on. Be it spot fixing or demonitization, the Indian Premier League in that sense is uniquely Indian.
Can’t wait for the season opener to start!