Indian Premier League 2011 January 7, 2011

Experience worth its weight in gold

Twenty20 may be a young man's game, but older players with strong leadership skills provide just as much, if not more, value for IPL franchises

Eyebrows were raised when Rahul Dravid increased his reserve price for the IPL auction from an initial $200,000 to $400,000, and they were raised again when Sourav Ganguly did the same thing. The scepticism over whether they would attract any buyers only increased when the IPL released its list of international players with 41-year-old Brian Lara joining the duo with the maximum base price of $400,000 despite not having played any competitive cricket since his retirement more than three years ago, barring a few matches in Zimbabwe.

So much for the theory that Twenty20 is a young man's game. Events at the auction may prove otherwise but the base prices tell a clear story: Dravid, Ganguly and Lara, along with fellow veterans VVS Laxman and Adam Gilchrist, command a higher price than Yusuf Pathan, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Dale Steyn, David Warner, Eoin Morgan and Jesse Ryder.

Base prices obviously don't tell the full story - as has been evident in the past three auctions - but neither does age affect prices. If anything, experience is a crucial pillar around which teams and coaches look to build a team.

"Gilchrist, Laxman, [Shane] Warne have been among the best players of their generation," Sean Morris, chief executive of Rajasthan Royals, said. "Old players have a different value because younger players look up to them. As long as they have the right sort of leadership, personality, they contribute more to the franchise with their experience.''

Steve Rixon, Stephen Fleming's assistant coach at Chennai Super Kings last year, agrees. "The older players will always offer something to the bigger picture. Look at how the teams panned out last year - some of the best guys were the older ones. Their depth of experience helps a lot in decision-making and they are very important to the junior players, especially in tight situations."

What makes a player like Dravid so valuable is his exemplary attitude as a player, and as a human being, that makes him a role model for the next generation, according to Joy Bhattacharya, Kolkata Knight Riders' cricket operations director. "Dravid leads by example, in terms of discipline and dedication, he can mentor young kids, can talk to them about accountability. So he should go for more."

Another, more prosaic reason he offers for the veterans' popularity is the simple economics of demand and supply. With fewer than 50 Indian players in the auction, and ten teams bidding for them, demand will be high, especially for the batsmen. "So Dravid will be picked because there are too few quality batsmen. They are now worth their weight in gold."

Who are the other veterans likely to fetch high prices? Muttiah Muralitharan (38 years old), who, Bhattacharya says, knows the sub-continental track like the back of his hand. "He is a still a quick fielder, can bowl and a lot of Indian tracks will be slow turners. He is a fabulous guy to have around the dressing room. Also spin bowling is much less demanding physically."

Michael Hussey (35) was bought by Chennai in 2008 for $350,000 (his younger brother David went to Kolkata for $625,000). He's in peak condition and even if his team had a forgettable Ashes, he was the second-highest run-getter in the series, with two centuries. Jacques Kallis (36), has chosen the best time to hit form - with every prospective buyer in India watching his performance in the recent Test series.

The advantage Hussey and Kallis hold over Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds is that they are active at the topmost level. That's one parameter franchises always have on their checklist. "There is a bit of relevance in that," Rixon says. "You need players who have a bit of touch when they come into the bigger picture. Where does that come from: it comes from playing first-class cricket or playing other brands of cricket."

That's why franchises are uncertain about the likes of Symonds and Sanath Jayasuriya, who both were bought for close to a million dollars in the first auction. Jayasuriya, who was paid $950,000, was dropped by Mumbai last year when the team think-tank realised his reflexes were slowing down. "The kind of role he plays at the top of the batting order, you need to be sharp," one of the team coaches said. "He might struggle, especially since batting in the shorter formats is a game of reflex and speed. It is more of a younger man's game."

The biggest enigma is the oldest player. Four years ago, tears were shed when he waved goodbye with the words "Did I entertain you?" He had stardust, more than Sachin Tendulkar; but is he worth the $400,000 base price in Saturday's auction?

"I frankly think he will remain unsold," one franchise official said. "He is overpriced." The official thinks Lara's big flaw is that he doesn't fit into a team culture. "He's done nothing since retiring - he didn't even support the ICL; he played in the first year but never appeared interested. Who will pick him at $400,000? It would be plausible at $100,000 - he'd come in, put his head down, teach the youngsters something, play a few innings, surprise a few people."

However, another franchise official says Lara may be bought for his commercial value. That's what happened with Warne, when Rajasthan signed him up. He wasn't a consistent match-winner for Rajasthan, but the franchise used his global appeal to promote their brand around the cricketing world.

That's where Ganguly fits in. "Sourav's brand is that of a fighter," Bhattacharya said. "He will come back and do things when it matters. He will always remain controversial, but he has something to offer still. He has brand value and the appeal to attract crowds."

Amrit Mathur, Delhi Daredevils CEO, believes franchises will be cautious when buying an older player. "This is a very demanding format. Senior players have to compete with youngsters in this kind of format and experience, age, availability, and fitness levels are considerations while deciding on players," he says. Mathur says that there may be a "price correction" in the contract of seniors players who have been involved in the first three years of the IPL.

The question remains whether Dravid and Ganguly are still worth bidding for given their age and decreasing involvement in top-level cricket; the weakest in terms of fitness, a necessary ingredient to succeed in the IPL. One thing's for sure - they have the mental strength to push themselves to the necessary levels demanded by the IPL. And their experience - as the franchises know, that's something money can buy.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Swapnoneel on January 10, 2011, 18:34 GMT

    @ all dada lovers: plz admit that this man has no more cricket left in him. he had a long career only because he was the captain and India was winning matches. if you look at his batting innings list, you won't find many good innings against quality attacks post 2000. you argue he shouldn't be compared to low profile players, it was your favorite dada who chose dinesh mongia, sanjay bangar over vvs laxman for wc 2003. laxman was one of the main architects behind dada having the captaincy record he boasts of. in return, he had his odi career murdered by Mr Napolean. the boot's on the wrong foot for dada now. and btw, he should have retired gracefully from ipl rather than making a mockery of himself by hiking his price. the inevitable has happened, and is good for cricket!

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2011, 14:15 GMT

    those who say that ganguly is a better t20 player than dravid should look at the stats once.. dravid's floated all over from 1 to 7 and has maintained a strike rate of 120.. however ganguly has a paltry strike rate of 109 in spite of opening the batting.. and also has a 50% dot ball percentage which is a crime in t20 cricket!

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2011, 13:28 GMT

    @Joydeep_Gupta How is Dada a better T20 Player? here is a comparison

    Runs: Dravid: 1187 Ganguly:1408 Average: Dravid: 28.26 Ganguly: 27.07 Strike-Rate: Dravid: 120 Ganguly: 109

    They come out to be even in their T20 careers. If at all, Dravid has better Strike Rate which is essential and he also averages better!

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2011, 6:46 GMT


  • praveen on January 8, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    and 4 kind info this not a test its T20laxman coming nd playin 4 a draw its not wortth watching and when spking abt dada he was the 3rd highetst run getter in IPL-3 . so any day any time is far btr den lax. but in tests i agree lax is a saviour.. talking abt dada's comeback he made 1000 runs in tests n odi .

  • Prashant on January 8, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    Completely agreed witg passionate cricket lover, numerous examples are there where a player's carrear was ruined by dada

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2011, 2:33 GMT

    from T20 perspective, Laxman, Ganguly, Lara should not be sold at all. I am surprised to see Sahara going in for Ganguly. I expect Gambhir, a couple of foreign players form NSW, Warriors to captain and for sure David Warner will get more money this time than YSingh. By holding Vijay, CSK may have done a mistake, maybe he is paid lesser than what he would have got through auction. Surprised to see Kallis released, maybe because fot the availibility issue, but he is the best in all formats for past 6-7 years.

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2011, 2:04 GMT

    Ganguly, 4th most runs getter of ipl 2010..... performed to his best, even though he captained for KKR.. His aggression and experience matters.... He is worth to watch out... His base price should be increased.. He shouldnt be compared with other fellow cricketers and also those low profiled youngsters...

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2011, 1:35 GMT

    regarding ganguly, they are forgetting that he was one of the highest run scorers in the IPL 2010. He scored nearly 500 runs proving that even at the T20 level he is very effective unlike other young players who are overestimated.

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2011, 1:30 GMT

    ganguly is the singlr best thing to have happened to indian cricket and every thing followed

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