IPL news May 16, 2012

The IPL's worst-kept secret

This isn't the first time murky player signings in the IPL have come to light

India TV's sting alleging corruption in the IPL has again focused the spotlight on the issue of under-the-table payments to domestic Indian players. The television channel recorded at least three players allegedly seeking more lucrative IPL deals - including extra money that would have violated league regulations - with other franchises through an undercover reporter posing as a sports agent. In all, five players were named either asking for more money or offering to spot-fix for a certain sum of money.

While the BCCI moved swiftly to suspend all five players, the issue of under-hand payments and deals is one that has plagued the IPL since its inception.

Ironically, it was the BCCI's own rules - designed to prevent escalating salaries - that lie at the heart of the problem. The board created three categories for uncapped players and set limits on what the players in each category could be paid. Those players who made their first-class debut in the previous two years would be paid Rs 10 lakhs ($22,000) per season; those who did so between two and five years ago would get Rs 20 lakhs ($44,000) and those with more than five years' experience Rs 30 lakhs ($66,000).

Theoretically, that left players free to pick the franchise of their choice because they would be paid the same no matter whom they played for, but that ignored the law of demand and supply. Nine teams need 63 Indian players to take the field. If each player has one back-up, that means teams need 126 Indian players at the minimum. And good Indian domestic players are in short supply. Therefore, far from protecting the players from inducements, the system left them open to bidding wars that could violate the salary cap, especially since some of the more talented players could, in an open auction, command several times the maximum they can under the BCCI's rules.

The first warning sign appeared in 2010, when Ravindra Jadeja was banned for the season because he violated league rules on two counts. First, he did not renew his contract with Rajasthan Royals for IPL 2010, as the rules required him to do, because he wanted to free himself from contractual obligations under the player trading rules. Second, Jadeja met with representatives of Mumbai Indians and sent his contract documents to them for inspection - thereby violating the operational rules by being in contact with another franchise.

Though Jadeja was punished, Mumbai Indians were not. The president of the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) and a member of the IPL governing council at the time, Arun Jaitley, who chaired Jadeja's hearing, recommended that Mumbai Indians be warned for "having approached a player who was under an obligation to play for another franchise" and said "a more deterrent line of action should be considered" for future offences of this nature. In his order he warned that, "Leagues such as the IPL will survive only if utmost purity and honesty is maintained. There must be a strict compliance with the rules. Money has value, but in a league like the IPL, loyalty has a greater value."

Following the mega-player auction in January, 2011, Vijay Mallya drew attention to the issue again with what now seems a prescient warning. "I urge all the franchises and the IPL governing council to exercise the utmost vigilance while signing uncapped players," Mallya said minutes after the auction ended. He did so because he was concerned about the BCCI's ability to protect the uncapped players from being the subjects of a bidding war or under-the-table inducements. Mallya was right to worry because, despite the severity of Jadeja's punishment, the problem reappeared a few months later. This time it involved Manish Pandey, one of the most exciting young domestic players and a member of Mallya's Royal Challengers Bangalore. When his contract ran out, Royal Challengers complained to the IPL that the player's agent was involved in discussions with rival teams and demanding more money than the rules allowed. However, the league's governing council could not conclusively ascertain whether Pandey or his agent had committed any violations and he was allowed to sign with Pune Warriors, but was banned for the first four games in 2011.

The issue is not restricted to domestic players either. Earlier this year Royal Challengers managed to retain the services of Chris Gayle, the West Indies opener, for $550,000 ($100,000 less than they paid him the previous season). Given his multiple match-winning innings in 2011 and his availability through IPL 2012, Gayle's auction value probably would have commanded the maximum $2 million contract. His deal with Royal Challengers allowed the franchise to have $1.45 million left over to spend in the auction.

Gayle was also reported, in various media, to have signed a deal to be brand ambassador for Whyte & Mackay whiskey, part of the UB Group which owns the Royal Challengers, which brings to light another factor potentially undermining the IPL's level playing field. The ability to hand out endorsements through cross-branding is one of the advantages some of the big corporate owners, with their multiple commercial interests and entities, have over the other franchises. A Royal Challengers or a Mumbai Indians, owned by the UB Group and Reliance Industries respectively, can supplement a player's playing contract in ways that some of the smaller franchises, such as Kings XI Punjab, cannot. Thus a player, should he be coveted by them, would have an added incentive to sign on the dotted line.

While the board has cracked down on players, it has so far not acted against the franchises. N Srinivasan, the BCCI president, came out in defence of the owners after Monday's sting. "All the franchisees have people of stature behind it," he told a television channel. "It will be wrong to presume they are doing something wrong and then make enquiries. If something comes to light it is different. All the franchisees are reputable people and I have respect for them."

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sharma on May 18, 2012, 12:29 GMT

    Mr.Tariq ,

    You are so wrong here, did all the franchises cost the same no rajastan royals were cheapest to buy because they play in small market.

    If you look at any league all over the world the franchises cost vary and their revenues and perks vary based on the city where they play.

    If you are playing for big market team as players you are bound to have some additional perks that is just nature of beast.So to moan and whine about Gayle getting some additional perks from RCB is just silly.

    The big market teams are bound to get big name players but it does not mean they are going to win ask Shane Warne who won IPL with bunch of no names.

    Small city or small market teams have to be scout properly to get better players who fit their system at a lower cost.

    BCCI is learning things they go so to expect perfection from league which is still in its infancy is ridiculous.

    If BCCI starts doling out punishments to franchises at this stage they will have shut down the league soon.

  • Dummy4 on May 17, 2012, 23:57 GMT

    Why the IPL of largely Indian People's Labored money should be paid to bench sitting bearers. For instance this 2012 IPL franchise 2009 champion Deccan had 33 players to fool whom, themselves or the public?

  • Dummy4 on May 17, 2012, 23:03 GMT

    Srinivasan can have respect for his colleagues and co-relates and who will have respect for them. It is public money involved matter, the people should respect them.

  • Dummy4 on May 17, 2012, 19:11 GMT

    the salary cap on domestic players should be removed and they should also come up in auctions.however, With this endorsement thing. u cannot stop this thing at all... how can you??

  • Cameron on May 17, 2012, 15:51 GMT

    In a season or two it will hardly matter as even the most hardened IPL 'fans' I know are very bored of it all now.

  • Sameer on May 17, 2012, 14:12 GMT

    Sir Srinivasan has said it. So it must be true.

  • Big on May 17, 2012, 13:30 GMT

    Srinivasan says "All the franchisees have people of stature behind it,". Well well well, so Mr. Srinivasan are assuming that the players are people without stature? You cannot clap with one hand. If a player approaches another Franchise and they entertain or review a new contract (not sign them) can and should be considered a violation by both parties. This approach by BCCI is to protect their powerful friends and use players as scape goats. Nothing new, happens everywhere.

  • Dummy4 on May 17, 2012, 12:52 GMT

    If it is wrong to investigate the franchises under the assumption that they might be committing a crime, then how could it be right when the players are under a spotlight. (From the present allegations, it seems that the players were tested under the assumption that they'd fault). It's unfair to leave loop holes and then punish the weaker links!

  • Sukhendu on May 17, 2012, 12:01 GMT

    As if lalit, RAJA, Kani, LALOOOO, Kalmadi etc. were not descent people.

    Again the Govt. is allowing things to snow-ball and when some private media will pull all things out - they will simply say - nobody claimed/reported/informed - all seemed to be fine only - till....

    Typical IAS/BABU/Govt. CHEESE-type culture and running the professional private league.

  • Rakesh on May 17, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    Srinivasan says "All the franchisees have people of stature behind it,". What a joke. BCCI itself does not have enough men if stature behind it being filled with politcos. SRK has proved how much stature he has yesterday already. They all are businessmen. Business have one sole purpose. To maximise returns.

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