IPL Auction No Method In Madness
For once onion prices, 2G Spectrum and CWG scams, Telangana, Kaveri river dispute, terrorism took the backstage as the IPL auction hogged the limelight on the television channels (barring Doordarshan) and on the front pages of the print media in the country.
On January 8th and 9th, going by print and electronic media reports, it looked as if that there was nothing else is happening in the country except the auctions of the 350 players from ten cricket playing countries. At the ITC Royal Gardenia in Bangalore, each player in the auction pool had a reserve price set between $20,000 and $400,000.
If the whopping some of over Rs 11 crore for Gautam Ghambhir stunned the people, Saurav Ganguly’s failure to find even a single franchisee at his base ray of 4 lakh USD also shocked the experts.
Even the auctioneer Richard Madley from England became the star figure, with some experts even discussing his “body language” as he called out the names of the players. It was no ordinary auction. It was full of glamour and glitz and there seemed to be no shortage of money. Anybody talking of poor India or quoting Arjun Sengupta’s report that more than half the country’s population was earning less then Rs 20 a day would have got beating of his life. It was India Shining at its best (or worst).
The gathering included, among others, who’s who of glamorous circuit—Vijay Mallya (Royal Challengers) and Nita Ambani (Mumbai Indians), Bollywood stars like Preity Zinta (Kings XI Punjab) and Shilpa Shetty (Rajasthan Royals). There was considerable build up to this auction but the man responsible for this much hyped-up event—Lalit Modi—was watching it from London.
Last time when BCCI axed Modi from the IPL over the allegations of large scale corruption, favouritism and nepotism, there were voices who questioned the very validity of the Indian Premier League (IPL) saying it is a platform for money laundering.
Leader like Shard Yadav (JD-U) and, Maulayam Singh Yadav (Samajvadi) along with several members of parliament representing various parties had demanded through probe into the whole league and sought strict action against those involved in financial scams.
However as the auction started all those demands were forgotten and the media lapped up the event. Lalit Modi, once the poster boy but now the fall guy of the IPL was not mentioned by anybody even in whispers.
The money spent in the auction was vulgar, obnoxious and made one think—who actually is paying such incredible amount, because returns or profits will take at least ten or more years to come.
The industrialists who claim that they are pumping in the money into the teams as a long-term investments are not willing to pay or put in even small friction of the money in other games because “there are no immediate returns”.
Vijay Mallaya spent few crores on Football clubs but seemed to be disillusioned with them because the non visibility of the Game, but is happy to splurge over Rs 100 crore in cricket.
The auction may have helped the game and the cricket players but has done immense harm to other games. No body is interested in other sports, every youngster wants to be a cricketer. “Parents want their child/children to play cricket. Other games have bleak future in the country, if this madness is not stopped,” said Rajinder Marwah, who works in a bank.
Interestingly these industrialists and the film stars have no qualms seeking tax relief. Just before the budget, these people rush to meet Finance Minister to give him their wish list seeking all sorts of relief and benefits.
Some of the big names who own the clubs in the IPL league owe the government. Millions in taxes but they refuse to pay on one or other pretext, but when it come to paying already cash-rich cricketers they show no hesitation in opening their purses.
It was said that this time the process has been made very transparent and franchise have learnt their lesson. “The auction will be down in a very professional way and only deserving will be picked up,” was the theme propagated by the BCCI officials before the start of the two-day event.
All the talk of professionalism and transparency turned out to be hollow, the moment auction started. 12 players, including Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Shane Warne and Virat Kohli had been retained by the teams who had played in the previous editions of the tournament and were not available for the auction.
The 350 players were divided into four brackets of the base prices of $400,000, $300,000, $200,000 and $100,000 depending on their performances in the past and their brand value. The base price meant that the teams had to start their bidding at that price for a particular player. Not all the players deserved the ridiculous amount of money they got and some deserving were left out.
Writing in the wall street journal blog, Will Davies tried to capture the mood in the auction hall: “Money rained down on cricketers at the player auction for the 2011 Indian Premier League. But some of the game’s biggest names, including former India Captain Sourav Ganguly, failed to attract any bids—proof that the IPL doesn’t deal in nostalgia.”
“The auction got off to an eye-popping start as Gautam Gambhir, who captained Delhi Daredevils last year, was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders for $2.4 million, more than a quarter of the entire squad budget. The big spending continued throughout the weekend, but nobody matched the record price paid for Gambhir, the very first name in the 350-strong auction list. Within minutes of paying for Gambhir, Kolkata stumped up another $2.1 million for Yusuf Pathan, but the franchise, co-owned by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, saw no need to bid for last year’s Captain and local hero Sourav Ganguly, or Dada (big brother) as he is affectionately known in his home town.”
Going by the pin-drop silence in the hall when Sourav name was called for the auction, it looked that all the franchises had come to a tacit understanding not to pick Sourav.
It was no consolation for Sourav, the man who gave new direction and self belief to Indian team, that former West Indian great Brian Lara, and present skipper Chris Gayle, South Africa’s Mark Boucher, Herschelle Gibbs and England’s Jimmy Anderson, Graeme Swann and Matt Prior failed to get a nod from any franchise. Sourav is bigger name as far as Indian Cricket is concerned, compared to all of them.
Not only that, the much talked about professional approach also went for a toss with several teams including Delhi Daredevil, Pune and Kochi failed to stitch up a well cohesive unit.
Kolkata Knight Riders went berserk spending over 25 crore on three players—Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan and J Kallis and looked bewildered after that. People thought KKR will be more circumspect this time having learnt a lesson after a extravagant buy last year in terms of Bangladesh bowler M Murtza, who was paid Rs 4 crore but played only one match.
The whole auction was lopsided and devoid of any logic. Take a case of South African fast bowler Dale Steyn, for whom Deccan Charger will shell out whopping 1.2 Million USD. As one expert pointed out that even if the Deccan Charger makes the final and the pacer bowls his maximum overs, he’ll get more than $3,000 per delivery. In all 127 players were sold in two-days auction (72 and 55) and Sourav’s failure to get any of the 10 IPL franchisees to pick him up effectively signalled the end of his eventful successful cricket career in a most embarrassing manner.
Highest paid overseas player was Mahela Jayawrdene ($1.5m) and the other two foreigners David Hussey and Dale Steyn got to a little over a million dollars each.
The owners were however charitable to the Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman while showing no such favour to former Bengal icon. Former KKR Captain had on his own raised his base price from Rs 92 lakh to Rs 1.84 crore, faced the ignominy of not being picked even in the second round while unknown Australian bowler Daniel Christian was bought by Deccan Chargers for a whopping Rs 4.14 crore—18 times his base price. The 27-year-old Australian has played only three T20 internationals, while Ganguly was unlucky, New Zealand’s Jesse Ryder (Pune Warriors, Rs 6.9 crore), Murali Kartik (Pune, Rs 1.84 crore) and Mohammad Kaif (Bangalore Royal Challengers, Rs 5.98 crore) were among the lucky 12 who found buyers after being rejected initially.
Former Indian Captain Bishan Singh Bedi expressed surprise that no franchise picked up Sourav, “It’s quite baffling that he allowed himself to be humiliated like this. It’s the height of humiliation. There must be someone advising him. I would like to ask Sourav that if he wanted to play on why he retired in the first place.”
About the auction, Royal Challengers Bangalore owner Vijay Mallya made a brave effort to justify it, “it was a level playing field” for all the participants. The original eight franchisees were given the option of retaining upto four players with $4.5 million dollars being deducted if they did so. The first player retained would cost the franchise $1.8 million from their auction budget, $1.3 million for the second player, $900,000 for the third player and $500,000 for the fourth player.
When it came to the auction cap for the 2011 edition of the IPL, the President of the BCCI (Shashank Manohar) made it clear that he had no problem with the amount of the cap as long as there was a cap. So various combinations and permutations were discussed amongst franchisees in the same room and it was then agreed that $9 million would be appropriate.
“We cannot disagree with the concept and need for a level playing field. The $9 million was acceptable across the board, maybe one or two might not have been happy.” According to Mallaya: “The IPL Governing Council came up with a formula that if you retain the first player $1.8 million will be deducted from your pocket, if you retain the second then $1.3 million will be deducted and so on? But never once did the IPL say that we are obliged to pay the same amount to the players so it is quite possible that while $1.8 million will be deducted from my auction purse, I need not be paying that player $1.8 million. The IPL is really not concerned with that part.”
“The auction that has just taken place could have been an auction that started from scratch with no retention at all. The concept of retention itself was much debated. There were some franchisees who wanted four Indian and four overseas players to be retained. Finally, the IPL Governing Council came up with a set of guidelines saying you can retain upto four players but in doing so we will deduct specified amount from your auction purse.”
“It was universally applicable to all. If you retain four players, half your purse which is $4.5 million would be deducted. The Governing Council never said how much we should pay to those four players. So whether you pay more or you pay less, it is the private arrangement between the franchisees and the players.”
But the flamboyant businessman realised that main troublesome area for the team owners will be to get talented uncapped players from their respective catchment areas. That is why he issued a stern warning to the other franchisees saying that they should not lure uncapped or domestic players with huge pay-packets, since the amount to be paid to them has already been specified by BCCI.
The uncapped Indian players will have a fixed salary. Rs 10 lakh pa for players, who have not played or first played Ranji Trophy (First class or List A) in the 2009/10 or 2010/11 seasons. Rs 20 lakh pa for players, who first played Ranji Trophy (First class or List A) in the 2006/7, 2007/8 or 2008/9 seasons, Rs 30 lakh pa for players, who first played Ranji Trophy (First class or List A) in the 2005/6 or earlier seasons.
IPL Chairman Chirayu Amin supported Mallaya on this issue saying strict action against erring franchisees on this issue. “Any speculation done by any governing council member is not valid so we don’t endorse anyone talking out except formal communication. We are very clear that we formally communicate whatever policy decisions we take. (If some franchisee is paying more than 30 lakh) If it comes to our knowledge then definitely strict action will be taken,” he said.
However, not everybody is bothered about what Amin or Mallya’s tough talking. It is rumoured that some franchisees are offering huge money to uncapped players. Having spent recklessly in picking up few players they are now desperate to complete the squad, hence they are even violating the catchment area rules.
“If more than one franchisee is interested in a player than the BCCI will directly get in touch with the player to seek his decision as to which team he wants to play,” said IPL CEO Sundar Raman and that sends the catchment area rule for a toss.
By Harpal Singh Bedi