IPL 2014 May 9, 2014

Big names on the bench

The IPL's auction system leaves overseas players such as Shaun Marsh, Thisara Perera and Samuel Badree entirely at their franchises' mercy

Shaun Marsh has an IPL average of 44.25, a strike-rate of 133.26, and he's sustained those numbers over 50 matches. He's easily been one of the most consistent batsmen in the history of the tournament. He hasn't played a single game this season, though, and that situation seems unlikely to change anytime. The situation, moreover, has nothing to do with his skills and everything to do with his nationality.

The same can be said of his Kings XI Punjab team-mate Thisara Perera. Last season, he was Sunrisers Hyderabad's joint second-highest wicket-taker and made 233 runs in 14 innings at a strike rate of 142.94, batting in the lower order.

As they have done all season, Marsh and Perera will most likely sit out their team's match against Royal Challengers Bangalore later tonight. Sitting in the dugout, watching their team-mates enjoy themselves in perfect batting conditions at Chinnaswamy Stadium, they might fight back dark thoughts of wishing injury upon them.

There is no way any team, right now, would pick Marsh over Glenn Maxwell and David Miller, given their awe-inspiring form this season, or even George Bailey. Mitchell Johnson versus Perera is even more of a no-brainer. Every season, big names have had to endure long spells on the bench thanks to the limit on overseas players in IPL XIs. It's nothing new.

You could say the likes of Marsh and Perera have little to complain about, considering the vast sums of money they are paid for simply showing up. But the players themselves have little control over their situation. When they put themselves up for auction, they have no idea which franchise will buy them, under which captain or coach they will play, or who their team-mates will be.

It's easy to draw a contrast with, say, Europe's football leagues, where players know exactly what they are walking into, and have the power to negotiate, before they sign a contract with a club. Sure, lots of players end up becoming big-money benchwarmers at clubs bankrolled by Russian billionaires, but it's a choice they have made themselves.

The IPL's auction system, on the other hand, leaves players such as Marsh, Perera and Chennai Super Kings' Samuel Badree entirely at their franchises' mercy till the end of the season. Some of them get a chance to move to other teams as part of swap deals during the IPL trading window, but most have to wait till the next auction, and hope they end up in a team that actually has some use for them.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo