Indian Premier League January 7, 2011

Franchises unhappy over uncapped player rules

As the IPL gears up for the mammoth two-day auction over the weekend, there are rumblings of dissatisfaction among five of its franchises regarding the rules governing players who will not be part of the auction - the "uncapped" Indians, who form the base of any IPL squad. The problem stems from a rule change in December that, the franchises believe, has tilted the balance in favour of the wealthier and influential teams in the competition, a charge the IPL denies.

The players who come under this rule include Manish Pandey, the IPL's first Indian centurion, former India under-19 captain Ambati Rayadu and Ranji Trophy performers Sidharth Trivedi, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala and R Satish.

In September 2010, it was decided that domestic players who had played 75% of their teams' matches in IPL 3 would be part of the auction, along with their senior colleagues and overseas players. In November, however, the IPL governing council received a list of suggestions from Mumbai Indians, which included the contentious issue of retaining uncapped players and not putting them in the auction. It was confirmed by an IPL governing council member that, after some deliberation, the league had finally altered the original conditions set for uncapped players and, following a council meeting, formally changed the rule in December. The new rule removed uncapped players from the auction and allowed franchises to sign players of their choice through a three-way agreement involving player, franchise and the IPL. In late December, franchises were instructed to not approach the uncapped players until notified to do so by the Board.

The issue has raised the alarm among some franchises who, in mails to the IPL, said they believed the new rules would leave the uncapped player 'market' open to under-the-table deals. "It is a simple problem, the quality of uncapped domestic players is limited," a franchise insider said, "these are rules that are just encouraging illegality."

The squad rules state that franchises can sign a minimum of 20 Indians and no more than 10 foreign players. That's 200 Indian players who need to be on board. The auction list features only 48 Indians while seven others have been retained by their franchises, leaving 145 players who have to be signed up by the franchises from the list of uncapped players. That's what sparked fear among some franchises, who believe players like Pandey and Rayudu will be most sought after and thus open to being offered unofficial 'perks' of signing up with a particular franchise.

In their mails seeking a change in the rules about uncapped India players, the franchises had offered the IPL several solutions: to either put the uncapped players into the auction (with the excess amount outside their salary slab being given to the BCCI) or to have franchises make a bid for them and draw lots to decide who gets the most sought-after player or restrict the players to their catchment areas. All options were turned down.

The system is fair, BCCI president Shashank Manohar told ESPNcricinfo. "Those [uncapped] players can only be taken after the auction. Before the auction nobody can enter an agreement with the uncapped players. It will have to be a tripartite agreement between the player, the franchise and the board."

The decision to keep the cricketers who had not represented India out of the auction was, Manohar said, logistical given the large numbers involved. "We can't put all the uncapped players in the auction because that would mean having more than 1000 players in the auction". The most sought after players Manohar said, "can be approached by everyone."

Manohar, whose term as BCCI chief ends in September 2011 after which N Srinivasan - the owner of the Chennai franchise - will take over, said the unbalanced supply-demand equation among the uncapped players was not an issue. "There would be seven to eight capped players in every team, and the balance remaining is 10-11 players. So that is how it would work. According to me, nobody would pay huge amounts to uncapped players. Which capped player would be paid a large sum? Everyone is a capped player ... Saurabh Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara, they are also capped players. Even Abhishek Nayar has become a capped player."

The IPL chief executive, Sundar Raman, told ESPNcricinfo that the argument that it was only the wealthier clubs who would be able to promise more and that too outside the system was, "not valid." Raman said, "All uncapped players have been out of the auction even in the past. They get a fixed fee of Rs 30, 20 or 10 lakhs and the contract process is managed by BCCI."

The system, Manohar said, could not benefit any franchise on the basis of either money or influence. "Finally it depends on how much money you have at the end of the auction. Mumbai and Chennai have lost half their purse due to the retention rule. At the bidding process they are going to face problems. Because a total of $9m is for everyone, capped, uncapped, everyone." The pressures on players from the bigger franchises would mean little he said, "because likewise others can also approach them." He said the BCCI would look into any complaints about illegality in the signing process.

Members of the franchises who had protested about the auction rules were not willing to speak on record, while others like Kochi, Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals had spent the last few months caught in legal disputes with the BCCI. A King's XI Punjab spokesman told EPSNcricinfo said his team had not raised the issue of uncapped players because, "we did not belong in the IPL at the time. Right now we are happy to live with whatever is there. We cannot possibly comment on who can or who can't be in the auction." He also confirmed that the franchise had paid up all their dues to their players.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at Cricinfo