IPL Mess June 23, 2010

IPL franchises against player retention and playing fewer matches

Ahead of their first meeting with interim IPL chairman Chirayu Amin tomorrow, a number of franchises have told Cricinfo they are against player retention and playing fewer matches next year, and would like to see more transparency and accountability in the way the league is run.

Following the suspension of Lalit Modi as IPL commissioner and the addition of two new franchises, a number of issues concerning this year's player auction and next season's tournament are still to be resolved. Chief among them is the issue of player retention. There have been debates over whether the original eight franchises should be allowed to keep any of their current players. Sachin Tendulkar has suggested teams be allowed to retain eight players - four Indian and four international - but the four franchises that spoke to Cricinfo felt all players should go back into the auction pool.

"The practical thing to do is let them go and bid for the players you want in a transparent manner," one franchise official told Cricinfo on the condition of anonymity.

As a potential compromise, an official from another franchise suggested giving each team two "cards" for the auction. The cards would give the teams the first right of refusal for one Indian player and one foreign player from their team. So if the maximum bid for a player, say MS Dhoni, was set at $2 million, then Chennai could use the card to bid $2 million and automatically retain him even if another franchise bids the maximum amount.

In case Chennai choose to bid less than $2 million for Dhoni, and that bid is matched by one or more of the other franchises, then Chennai would have the first right to break the tie and take the player, using the card. "[That way] everything is decided on the auction table," the official said.

In the wake of India's disastrous World Twenty20 campaign, many observers blamed IPL fatigue for the team's poor performance, leading to speculation that fewer matches will be played next year. The IPL governing council is reportedly studying a proposal that recommends the teams be split in two groups, with a total of 68 matches. Under the current format, 94 matches are set to be played next year.

However, none of the franchises Cricinfo spoke to were in favour of shortening the tournament. They argue that their decisions are based on a particular business model and certain projections. "The number one reason for adding teams and having more matches was having more revenue. If the number of matches is reduced, it doesn't work for me," a franchise official said. "We can address the problems [player fatigue] arising out of that; there is a solution. But reducing matches and the reduction of revenue is not on."

One proposed solution was to limit the Indian players to 14 matches each, but there were reservations about how acceptable that would be, considering the large sums of money being paid for them.

Other issues of concern are the maximum permissible size of teams and a salary cap that includes players bought outside the auction. As things stand, teams will be allowed to spend $7 million each on players at the auction. But there is no limit to how much money can be spent on players outside the auction, or how many players a team can buy. This gives franchises with deeper pockets an advantage; hence a cap to level the playing field.

"We will ask for a cap on the spend," a franchise official said. "We will ask for a cap on the number of people a team can hire. Nobody should have a squad of more than 25 or 30."

The teams would also like a larger voice in the running of the IPL. Among the suggestions is that the governing council should include a franchise representative, who would pass on information to the franchises in a timely way, allowing them to plan their operations more efficiently. Ultimately, clarity and communication are what the franchises want most to get on with the business of running their teams.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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