Some prickly IPL issues

Clearly, the money paid to get some players in the IPL was simply not worth it. While the player can’t be blamed if he was bought for astronomical figures, questions must surely be asked of those who make the decision to buy players at such a price.

The Gujarat Lions player-purchases at the IPL 9 auction. Astronomical sums being paid by the different franchises for unproven players is really baffling.   -  SPORTZPICS/BCCI

Currently, the topics in Indian cricket are who should be the national team’s coach and the ‘failures’ of the IPL. Just after the IPL there was the usual discussion about which player was worth the price that was paid for him and which player delivered more.

Clearly, the money paid to get some players in the IPL was simply not worth it. While the player can’t be blamed if he was bought for astronomical figures, questions must surely be asked of those who make the decision to buy players at such a price. While it is understandable that big-name players will attract big fees, it baffles one when big sums are spent on unknowns, who predictably fail, unable to live up to even a fraction of the fees that they were bought for.

The fact that needs to be remembered is that there will always be a big difference between a domestic T20 tournament and the IPL where the best players in the world play. It’s not just skill, but temperament that will count in the end. Playing a domestic tournament in front of barely a few hundred or a thousand spectators and not many more on TV is way different from performing in front of screaming thousands at the ground and a few million more analysing your every move on the screen and ever ready to pull you down at the slightest sign of frailty. This is where temperament comes in and however good you may be skillwise, if you don’t have the temperament you are going to come a cropper sooner than later. The argument that market forces decide the price of a player is facetious to say the least, especially when it comes to those who are unknown and who get drawn into a bidding war and end up with much more money than their cricket records warrant. A big-name player brings with him a brand that a franchise can use to attract sponsors, the crowds and a fan-following and so his big price is absolutely on course. Even if he doesn’t quite live up to expectations, the franchise would have benefitted from his inclusion in the squad.

 

So, what needs to be looked at is the humungous fees that uncapped players get simply because they get lucky to be part of an ego clash also known as a bidding war. While the earlier cap on how much they could get was too little and so wrong, it is also not correct that players who haven’t played for their countries in any of the three formats of the game should receive the kind of fees that domestic first class players do not get to make in an entire career of more than a decade. It is crucial for the BCCI to address this anomaly or else the other domestic tournaments are going to fall by the wayside. As it is there is evidence that many players pretend to be injured for the first half of the season and only announce they are fit when the limited overs competitions come along. They can then hone their skills for the IPL and also impress the talent scouts who are looking to get players for their franchises when the annual auction comes up. Once the auction is done then the players get ‘unfit’ again and don’t play any other domestic event. This is to ensure that they don’t get injured and stay fit for the IPL.

The earlier cap of Rs. 20 lakh for an Indian uncapped player was unfair when an overseas uncapped player could get millions. But, perhaps, the time has come to have a reasonable cap for uncapped players, be it Indian or foreign. This will save a lot of money for the franchises, many of whom are still to break even. While a fixed cap may not be the answer, perhaps a cap of ‘x’ times the uncapped players’ base price would be fair to both the player and the franchise, who otherwise get into a bidding war that just drains away valuable funds.

The BCCI has taken the laudable step of having a camp for physios and fitness trainers under the guidance of Andrew Leipus, who was the physio of the Indian team for a long time and who is now based abroad. Leipus is among the best in the business and knowing India and Indians as he does, he is the right person to train and guide the physios and trainers at the NCA. What will be even better is if these physios and trainers get an opportunity to show their skills not just on the domestic scene, but also at the IPL where most of the franchises invariably have physios from their coach’s country. Six weeks or more can be tiring and lonely in a foreign country so most coaches have their friends or countrymen as some support staff or the other.

Most overseas guys see the IPL as a cash cow to be exploited and so if they can help a friend, why not do so? He will help pass the off days and have a beer or two with you and even play golf with you. Oh and he can be called anything, maybe a wicketkeeping consultant even if the franchise has just two ’keepers in its entire squad!!!