Indian Premier League February 20, 2008

The day cricketers sold like stocks

On-field action aside, we could have just witnessed the most eventful day in cricket's history, one when players were bought like stocks at a share market

Adding to the glitz was the presence of Bollywood stars such as Shah Rukh Khan, whose company owns the Kolkata franchise ... © AFP

Click here for a blow-by-blow account of the auction

On-field action aside, we could have just witnessed the most eventful day in cricket's history, one when players were bought like stocks at a share market. In the frenetic Indian Premier League auctions, which lasted 10 hours in the Hilton Towers in Mumbai, six players raked up more than a million dollars each, and over 70 others earned immediate financial security. In one day of tradings, the face of world cricket has been changed: for better or worse, is for time to tell.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Andrew Symonds were the big winners on a day when Indian and Australian players were the most wanted. A whopping US$14.6 million was spent on 25 Indians, including big sums for those on the fringe, while the 13 Australians were worth US$6.7 million, with relative unknowns like Cameron White and David Hussey thriving among the big daddies.

The auction wasn't without its surprises. Glenn McGrath was not picked up in the first set of bids and needed to wait till the end before he was bought at the base price. In contrast Ishant Sharma, a bowler just two seasons old, benefitted immensely from the recent performances, ending as the costliest bowler in the pool.

The trends were hard to miss. Teams have not looked to buy just match-winners; they have invested in a mix of cricketers and brands. The fact that Dhoni is getting more than double of what Gilchrist will is a case in point. As for the young players, especially the batsmen, the franchises have all preferred the popular over the proven: Robin Uthappa was worth more than Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting put together. Stunningly Yusuf Pathan, who's played just one Twenty20 international, was deemed about three times more valuable than the experienced Scott Styris.

The day kicked off with the blockbuster news of Dhoni being bought for US$1.5 million by Chennai. That set the ball rolling, and no other player was able to catch up with it by the end of the day. Dhoni was part of the first group of players (the marquee players) to be auctioned and grossed more than double what Adam Gilchrist did ($700,000 from Hyderabad). It took the franchises only about 20 to 25 minutes to decide the teams for the six biggest names in the fray.

The second round of bidding featured some more senior players for sale, and surprisingly McGrath and Mohammad Yousuf didn't find any takers. It was later learnt that Yousuf was a disputed property as he had been asked by the court not to participate in any league that is rival to the Indian Cricket League (ICL). Harbhajan Singh and Sanath Jayasuriya were the big draws in this round and Mumbai dug deep into their pockets to procure the two. While a $975,000 salary might not be too high for Jayasuriya, Harbhajan's taking away $850,000 did come as a surprise.

After a brief lunch break, the kind we see in a rain-curtailed ODI, Andrew Symonds came pretty close to beating Dhoni. In the third round, featuring the star players from outside India, Symonds was bought by the Hyderabad franchise for $1.35m. The franchises would have known of Symonds's decision to not tour Pakistan later this year, because Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden - two other Australians auctioned in the same round - were not fought for nearly as hard and went for $400,000 and $375,000 respectively. The New Zealanders, Brendan McCullum and Jacob Oram, were interesting picks as they drew $700,000 and $675,000 from Kolkata and Chennai respectively.

Bangalore, who were relatively quiet till then, surprised all by digging deep into their coffers to procure Jacques Kallis for $900,000, while Kolkata bought Chris Gayle for $800,000 in the fourth round of biddings, which featured stars who were perhaps one rung lower than the top draw.

By the end of the fourth round, one could vaguely look into how the teams were going about their selection. Hyderabad, for example, were going all out for big hitters: Symonds, Gilchrist, Herschelle Gibbs, and Shahid Afridi had cost them $3.3m by then. Mohali were looking for solid batsmen (Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara) and a fiery pace attack (Brett Lee and Sreesanth).

Kolkata were going for a more equitable distribution of salary, not bidding outrageously for superstars but looking to get as many good players as possible, while Jaipur kept their cards close to their chest, having spent only $1.15 by the end of four rounds.

In the fifth round, Delhi surprised everybody in the auction for wicketkeepers - spending $825,000 for two wickekeepers, Dinesh Kartik getting $125,000 more than AB de Villiers. Bangalore followed their trend of banking in safe players and picked Mark Boucher for $450,000.

The allrounders, the hot properties in Twenty20 cricket auctioned in round 6, had more surprises in the offing. Irfan Pathan, whose bidding started at $200,000, was finally bought by Mohali for $9,25,000. His brother, Yusuf, and Cameron White, another largely untested player at the international level, were bought for $475,000 and $500,000 respectively. No-one, though, was ready to pay a dollar more than his base price of $175,000 for Scott Styris.

When it come to the young batsmen, it was down to the real box office. India's dashing Twenty20 stars were showered with money while Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina and Manoj Tiwary - those not part of the World Twenty20 squad, got their share too. David Hussey was the only non-Indian lesser-known batsman, to draw a favourable response from the bidders. David actually found more takers than brother Mike, and was bought by Kolkata for $625,000; bidding for him started at $100,000.

By the time we moved to the last round of auction, for the lesser-known bowlers, the franchises were spent, both physically and financially. Umar Gul, one of the best bowlers in the Twenty20 world championships, was bought for a mere $150,000 by Kolkata, while Chaminda Vaas, Makhaya Ntini, and Dilhara Fernando all went for their base prices. But Kolkata offset the Gul steal and stung the last surprise of the day by buying Ishant for a whopping $950,000.

Things have happened too fast to make a sense of it or predict where we are headed, but in one day one thing was proven: in a free-market environment, the players' worth and selections would not be judged by how they played, but as a commercial commodity.

Top ten players at the auction
Player Franchise Base price Winning bid
Mahendra Singh Dhoni Chennai 400,000 1,500,000
Andrew Symonds Hyderabad 250,000 1,350,000
Sanath Jayasuriya Mumbai 250,000 975,000
Ishant Sharma Kolkata 150,000 950,000
Irfan Pathan Mohali 200,000 925,000
Jacques Kallis Bangalore 225,000 900,000
Brett Lee Mohali 300,000 900,000
RP Singh Hyderabad 200,000 875,000
Harbhajan Singh Mumbai 250,000 850,000
Robin Uthappa Mumbai 200,000 800,000

Icon players
Player Franchise Price
Sachin Tendulkar Mumbai 1,121,250
Sourav Ganguly Kolkata 1,092,500
Yuvraj Singh Mohali 1,063,750
Rahul Dravid Bangalore 1,035,000
Virender Sehwag Delhi 833,750
All figures in US$. Icon players' price calculated at 115% of next-highest earning player in the same franchise.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roger on February 22, 2008, 11:07 GMT

    I think the IPL is a joke, It's biased of course, How can Rookies and Has-Beens fetch higher prices than Legends of the game, It's all a gimmick by overpaid millionaires that know nothing about cricket, Australia is the no.1 side in the world in test and oneday formats and have the flexibility in thier side that has dominated for a decade, There issome talented rookies coming through in the world but i can't even see how even Kallis from Sth. Africa is worth 900,000 and Sharma (An up and coming talented blowler with a big future) is 50,000 less, And Ponting at over 400,000, What a joke, The whole things a joke, Let's go to Pakistan boys

  • Cricinfouser on February 22, 2008, 1:26 GMT

    It's gonna be fun to watch Andrew Symonds play with indian cricketers......haha... caz of the harbhajan thigi

  • Anshuman on February 22, 2008, 1:00 GMT

    After seeing how the bidding has gone, the IPL is sounding more like a joke. Can't believe that Mumbai paid $800k for Bhajji!!!! And then some teams shelled out big bucks for some current aging OZ players who may not even play for 2 out of the 3 yrs contract!!!! Whats the point in giving Ponting $400k if he is probably going to show up in the 3rd yr of the IPL and may be when not at his best? May be if a proper schedule, along with a window for IPL, for international matches is worked out then majority of the international stars can play the IPL from next yr onwards. Clearly, the players to go for would be mostly from the sub-continent and preferably under 30.

    2nd thing is may be the teams could be better classified instead of cities. May be two teams from each zones with their specific names like say from West, Trojans and Kings and so on.

    just my 2 cents


  • Krish on February 21, 2008, 21:11 GMT

    This a great break for cricketers who are just about to retire or facing the end of their career. @ Esudvum - Treat this as a business and a really lucrative one! The more you are able to invest , the more returns you are bound to get. So Poor Indians.. It aint our turns just yet! @ ShrikantHathi - Why such a negative take on this? Think about the cricketers, thier families .. If you were a cricketer and I offer you this opportunity, why would you shun it? Dont forget, its a Win - Win situation .. For cricketers/ the board and spectators too!!.. I am not not going to miss the action.. Its really entertaining!!

  • Sandip on February 21, 2008, 20:36 GMT

    It is really ridiculous. IPL will be played in India where pitches are FLAT. Fast bowlers can't bowl to their potential in India. Sheer fact that Ishant Sharma fetched more than ponting and Bret Lee speaks for itself about the knowledge and understanding of the bidders. I sincerely hope that the whole thing is BIG finacial flop and ends in disaster for IPL and BCCI. This has NOTHING to do with cricket or cricket loving public. Will players lose money ( if they get relative to their price) if they don't perform? How many of these players are used to playing cricket in 45 degrees celsius!!! Lets see the fun not the scores and casualties of all the International cricket council member countries before it comes to a graveyard.

  • Rajesh on February 21, 2008, 18:53 GMT

    The whopping amount of money being spent on players and franchisees in the IPL has been ridiculous to say the least and cricket seems to be going the soccer way. So, we might soon see club games attracting more attention than international games which would be utterly ridiculous.

    And to think that all these are Twenty20 games is even more ridiculous. It's really a shame. The ICC has been talking about promoting the Test Cricket, which is the 'Real Cricket' and now this. Surely the money rich BCCI are controlling the game and it certainly doesn't seem too good for the game. May be it would make some of the officianados of the BCCI even more richer like how it has made the so-called T20 icons richer. Cricket certainly deserves better !!

  • shreeram on February 21, 2008, 17:54 GMT

    What an irony that a person from one of the poorest and backward states in the country has the largest paycheque. Would he think of his state's annual budget? A small percentage of this fee can keep some of the homeless and desperately poor people in his state away from misery. The whole thing is surreal and Immoral. This is really two Indias. Also corporate India's real ugly wealth is now in the open. If it indeed is so wealthy then really it is a shame and a matter of great concern of its total indifference and lack of social conscience. Cricket has indeed gone ugly and lost its sense of proportion. India can now buy Brett Lee for Rs 4 crores or more but cannot still feed all its population two square meals. Nearly 40 Million US Dollars has now been doled out much of which is going outside the country . If the cricketers( Indians involved) have any sense of morality or conscience, every penny of their earnings needs to go to the poor.

  • Debapriyo on February 21, 2008, 15:14 GMT

    Well... they're spending sooo much. Where will they get the money back from? Many people will probably watch the games, but will they watch the games more than they watched the world cup or the T20 world cup? I doubt. I do not understand the calculations here, but aren't they spending more than what they'd have spent in a T20 world championship?

  • Kalpen on February 21, 2008, 15:05 GMT

    This is a good start for revolutionizing the game. No doubt the tournament is going to get the viewers like no other domestic tournaments have ever got. However it is important to realize that this sort of tournaments are only placing the second tier teams around the world into a ditch (a grand total of one player from low ranked teams). To really improve this game, strong steps need to be taken to include them. Give them a chance to improve their cricket also. I am tired of watching the same teams go at it again and again. The ICC should realize that not a single cricket team has emerged as competitors in the last 20 years. Furthermore West Indies is loosing their lustre. Get to these teams before rival leagues get there and steal the best out of them. I do beleive this is a revelution and this is only a tiny section of it. Don't forget there are more cricket teams in the world out there that you don't hear about everyday.

  • Kalpen on February 21, 2008, 14:40 GMT

    I love the IPL. I am excited and can't wait till Tendulkar gets his shots going against Shane Warne again. Shane Warne ... a lil piece of advice. Don't let the Nightmares get ya...

  • No featured comments at the moment.