IPL likely to increase player retention, reduce salary cap
IPL franchises are likely to have two options available to keep the core of their teams intact ahead of the 2014 season: the usual practice of player retention, and a new system of 'right to match' cards that can be used during the auction. A team is expected to be able to retain up to five players and the IPL has recommended three 'right to match' cards per franchise, which means up to eight players could be retained, salary cap permitting. The auction is likely to be held on February 12 and 13 at a yet-to-be-decided venue.
The franchises were also informed that the 2014 general elections in India will have an impact on the venue for the tournament. Once the Indian government announced the election dates, the IPL will work out a feasible venue for next year's edition, the franchises were told.
The idea of the 'right to match' card was discussed during a two-day IPL workshop in Singapore on November 28 and 29 that was organised by the BCCI. A card would allow a franchise to buy back a player during the auction by simply matching the highest bid. For example, if two or more franchises were bidding for a player who had represented a different team in the 2013 season, then that team's owners could buy back the player if they wanted to by matching the highest bid for him.
During the discussions in Singapore, one suggestion was to bring all the players back into the auction but the IPL was not interested in abandoning the retention policy. Although officials did not specify the reasons, the feeling was that a retention policy allowed certain powerful franchises to hold on to the players that formed the core of their side over the previous seasons.
It is understood that the idea of a 'right to match' card was floated to offset the retention rule, which some franchises felt was detrimental to their chances. Before the 2011 auction, franchises were allowed to retain up to four players from their old squads, but for every player retained, the franchise would lose a certain amount from the salary cap of $9 million available for spending at the auction. For the first player retained, $1.8 million was deducted from the salary cap, for the second player it was $1.3 million, the third $900,000 and the fourth $500,000. However, these were not necessarily the amounts paid by the franchise to the retained players. So a team that kept four players went into the auction with only $4.5 million to spend.
"There were some franchises that did not retain any players, but still ended up paying more money [for four players in the auction] than a franchise that retained four players and paid just half the salary cap," a franchise official said. "In fact these teams [which retained players] obviously paid more money although that was never made public. So that was a perfect way for teams to go to an auction with half the purse and also circumvent the salary cap."
Not all franchises were in agreement about the 'right to match' card, though. "It works for teams where players are asking for a big price [to be retained]," an official who did not agree with the concept said. He felt it was unfair that a franchise, which had not participated in the bidding for a player, could walk away with that player only because of a 'right to match' card, when there were other teams actively involved in the bidding. "If two franchises are locked in a bid to buy a player and then suddenly a third franchise comes and says he has the right to buy the player, you might end up paying more [in order to discourage teams from using the card]."
The salary cap for the 2014 auction is likely to be Rs 600 million (approximately $10 million) and is likely to increase by 10% each year. For the first time, the purse in is Indian Rupees and not dollars. If a franchise chooses to retain five players, it is likely to lose Rs 125 million from the purse for the first player, Rs 95 million for the second, Rs 75 million for the third, Rs 55* million for the fourth and Rs 40 million for the fifth - a total of Rs 390 million, leaving them with Rs 210 million for bidding during the auction.
It is not clear at the moment whether there is a restriction on the number of Indian or foreign players that can be retained. "There is nothing definitive," a BCCI official said. "All five can be Indians or all five can be overseas. Or there could be a mix of both."
According to the official, a higher purse was unhelpful for the smaller teams, as they had lesser money to spend compared to sides like Mumbai Indians or Chennai Super Kings. With the 2014 purse likely to be capped at Rs 600 million, the playing field will be more level because that was the average expenditure of the smaller teams in terms of player payments and operation costs. The salary cap had been $12.5 million (approximately Rs 750 million at current exchange rates) in 2013.
The contracts for players retained or signed at the 2014 auction are likely to be valid for three seasons, with the franchise holding the right to renewal at the start of each of season. The number of players in a squad is also likely to be reduced from 33 to 27, and the number of foreign players cut from 11 to nine per team. Another important change is that all Indian domestic players, who have either played first-class or List A cricket, will be eligible for sale at the auction. Previously only players who had played for India or played a certain number of games for their IPL teams could be auctioned.
All these suggestions and recommendations will now be discussed by the IPL governing council, which has to ratify the changes for them to take effect. The Singapore meeting was the first gathering of IPL officials and franchises since the betting and spot-fixing scandal marred the 2013 season. Ravi Sawani, the head of BCCI's anti-corruption unit, addressed the franchises and gave a presentation on the various corruption-related events in the past two IPLs. Sawani also spoke of the various measures his team would put in place to protect the integrity of both the players and the tournament.
December 3, 2013, 05.50 GMT: This figure was earlier stated as 50 million
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo