It was interesting to see the IPL mega auction. Intriguing is also a word that can be used because some of the selections and some omissions are not easy to understand. A confession, this is the first time I saw the auction, albeit on the second day as I was in quarantine in the hotel room. There was one earlier occasion when I was actually present, way back when I was in the IPL Governing Council, but that was for the mini-auction for the uncapped players in 2008. Vijay Mallya was over the moon after bagging Virat Kohli who had just captained the India Under-19 team to the ICC World Cup trophy.
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What an inspired selection that was and Kolhi continues to be with the same franchise, of course at multiple times the price he was first picked by the tycoon. If memory serves me right, there was a limit of ₹20 lakh for an uncapped Indian player. That limit was kept to ensure that the uncapped player didn’t pull out of the Ranji Trophy to keep himself fresh and fit for the IPL. When an uncapped overseas player went for around USD 6,50,000 then the question asked was why limit an Indian uncapped player when there was no such restriction on a foreign player who had not played for his country. So, the limit was removed and today we have uncapped players getting crores if they are lucky enough for their name to come up at an early stage of the auction when franchises have lots of money in their purse.
When the first ever auction was held in 2008, there was a fair amount of criticism and it was asked if the top names in the game were like cattle to be auctioned off.
The Indian team was in Australia then and, while flying between cities for the ODI series, there was occasion to sit next to some Australian stars. They were disappointed that some of them had gone for half and sometimes even less than some Indian players who were barely in the Indian ODI team. It was explained to them that because only four overseas players were allowed to play in the XI there was need for more Indian players. Also because it was the first season of the IPL, a franchise loyalty had to be created and that could majorly be done by having familiar Indian names with whom the fans could relate.
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Over the years, apart from the odd player, most of the overseas expensive buys have turned in disappointing performances. Perhaps the pressure of expectations because of the high price they were bought for may have got to them. But over the years it has been seen that they have not even been worth a fraction of the amount they have been bought for.
What is intriguing is that some players who have been failures in previous editions keep finding new franchises as also those who have been injury prone and seldom finish a tournament. But then that’s been the case even with coaches who after being sacked by one franchise, manage to find another one for the next season.
While the franchises have scouts to go and watch matches not only in India but also the overseas T20 leagues, it is crucial to keep a keen eye on the Indian season because seven players in the squad have to be Indians. It is not known if the franchises use the services of the members of the senior and junior selection committees whose terms have just finished. They would have seen most of the players as they travelled around the country watching domestic cricket and so would be able to guide the franchises quite nicely. Since the selection committee in India is zone based, it would be easy for the franchises from each zone to take the retired selector on board as a scout to help guide them about domestic talent. Even the commentators, who cover domestic cricket could be useful guides to identify players.
As always, it will be a tournament to look forward to as it has been over the years.
Bring it on.