IPL: Two replacement teams in business

Having acquired a franchise only for two years, there are a plethora of commercial challenges for the yet-to-be-named teams. For now, let’s stick to the cricketing aspect. And for that, the owners have to wait for the player auction on February 6 to get their act right.

Indian Premier League Chairman Rajeev Shukla (middle) with the Rajkot IPL team owner Keshav Bansal (left), and Pune representative Subrata Talukdar after a news conference in Mumbai on December 15.   -  AP

The countdown has begun. The long road has started.

Seldom can both these jargons be related to the same phenomenon. One such instance is the foray of two new teams into the Indian Premier League bandwagon.

In a way, it’s a new beginning for owners of both the franchises — brought in only for the next two editions to fill in the void created by the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. After getting their hands on Pune and Rajkot earlier this month, the owners of New Rising and Intex Technologies, respectively, on December 15 took the first major step on their short — and hopefully sweet — IPL sojourn. Both the teams chose five marquee players each from those who were on the suspended franchises’ roster.

On the other hand, the signing of superlative players is an important part of the preparations leading towards both the franchises getting their strategy right in the remaining weeks before the IPL’s ninth edition begins on April 9.

 

Having acquired a franchise only for two years, there are a plethora of commercial challenges for the yet-to-be-named teams. For now, let’s stick to the cricketing aspect. And for that, the owners have to wait for the player auction on February 6 to get their act right.

Soon after picking their five key players, Keshav Bansal, the young owner of the Rajkot franchise, stressed on the need for the new owners to “learn from the mistakes of other franchises” earlier in the IPL.

With just two years in their hands, neither team can goof up on the squad composition like Royal Challengers Bangalore have erred multiple times. In that regard, the auction and its prelude hold the key for both the team owners.

As the first step towards getting their auction strategy right, the owners will first have to get the right men into the support staff role. Both teams are believed to have touched base with a few renowned coaches who have been a part of the IPL in the past. The head coaches, along with the assistants and analysts, will have to zero in on a chunk of players they would like to be a part of in their set-up.

If a renowned coach and his team are given a choice to choose one of the two new teams based on their draft strategy, he is more likely to prefer Rajkot over Pune despite the latter having Mahendra Singh Dhoni with them.

The owners of the Kathiawari franchise seem to have thought much better in choosing their draft strategy. All their five signings can be billed as all-rounders in the Twenty20 version.

Suresh Raina is the highest run-getter in IPL history but he has been more than a useful off-spinner over the last couple of editions. Besides the local fan following, Ravindra Jadeja brings in the qualities of a genuine spinning all-rounder. Brendon McCullum is an explosive top-order bat and a useful wicketkeeper, while James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo are capable to take the game away from the opposition both with the willow and wily medium pace bowling.

The Pune owners, on the other hand, preferred to bolster their batting firepower. Barring R. Ashwin, the leading off-spinner in world cricket, all their signings — Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, Steven Smith and Faf du Plessis — are specialist batsmen.

So in the prelude to the auction, Rajkot will be hoping to continue striking the balance right while Pune will have to hunt for pace bowlers. Perhaps the western Maharashtrian franchise owners can make use of the two trading windows and get a couple of pace bowlers from the battery of fast bowlers that the Bangalore franchise inexplicably possess.

The other big challenge for both the owners would be to enter the auction with immaculate preparation. A layman may feel that the auction is nothing but a game of chance. To a certain extent it is, but all the franchises undertake plenty of mock auctions in order to acquire their most desired set of players.

While the six old teams would be looking to fill in the gaps in their combinations, the bulk of the signings will have to be for the two newbies. The average squad strength for an IPL outfit is 25 so the addition of 20-odd players will have to be managed smartly.

Considering the fact that the new owners have Rs. 27 crore remaining in their auction purse, it could well be possible that some of the old franchisees will try and stretch a player’s value just to put a newbie in a spot. That will have to be dealt with carefully by the new franchises to avoid finding themselves running out of money.

The fact that most of the Super Kings and Royals players will be available for the two teams is also a tricky aspect. A man in the chai stall may feel the same set of players can continue for each of the two new teams. But the draft has indicated that players from the suspended franchises are going to be split between various teams. And the team that gets the mix and match right will hope to wear a big smile at the end of the player auction.

Over to February 6!