IPL Auc­tion: Con­sis­tently Un­pre­dictable

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Bo­ria Ma­jum­dar

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!

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