Jaipur play their cards well
"I don't know what they are doing," remarked IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi about Jaipur, his home team, after the first players' auction in Mumbai on February 20. Of the nearly US$ 42 million that was spent by the eight teams on blockbuster names, Jaipur had spent only around US$ 2.95 million.
On Tuesday, after the second auction, Jaipur spent just US$ 385,000 more but emerged with the biggest smile of them all.
For a total of US$ 3.35 million - just half a million over what Chennai and Hyderabad spent for MS Dhoni and Andrew Symonds in the first auction - Jaipur's Rajasthan Royals are looking quite formidable: Shane Warne, Graeme Smith, Younis Khan, Shane Watson, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Kamran Akmal, Yusuf Pathan, Mohammad Kaif, Munaf Patel, Morne Morkel and Sohail Tanvir.
"We have put together a great squad from the two auctions at our price," Fraser Castellino, the CEO of the franchise, told Cricinfo. "I would call this a victory for us. Other teams have great squads too, but now I believe they may have overspent a bit. We believe we are well-placed now, as good as any of the other teams."
While spending just under three-fourths of the near US$ 5 million that the seven franchises have spent, Jaipur's strategy of staggering their purchases across the two auctions seems to have worked.
"We would like to be called a strategic franchise now," Castellino said. "After today, few people will say we are a weak team. There were a lot of people who made fun of us last time. What they failed to understand then was we had a clear strategy, and we were as sure as they were that this was serious business."
On Tuesday, Jaipur started the ball rolling by picking up England allrounder Mascarenhas (US$ 100,000), with whom they had been negotiating for the last few days. Hampshire's Twenty20 specialist was a last-minute addition to the auction after being cleared early on Tuesday morning by the county, which also has Warne on its rolls.
Then, they bought Australian allrounder Watson (US$ 125,000), South Africa fast bowler Morkel (US$ 60,000) and Pakistan left-arm seamer Tanvir (US$ 100,000).
Explaining the strategy, Castellino said, "Yes, there were good players in the first auction. But we also knew then that there were a lot of good Twenty20 specialists who missed out and who would come into play in the second auction. We targeted them this time, and our strategy has worked."
However, Jaipur could still run into some trouble with the second part of their strategy - tackling the minimum cap of US$ 3.3 million for the first auction in two attempts. While Castellino claimed that the cap covered the entire auction process and included the amount spent in the second auction as well, IPL governing council member IS Bindra told Cricinfo that the penalty for falling short last month "still stands".
"It was very clear early on that the first auction was just the first step," Castellino said. "All the franchises knew then that there would be a second auction. And as far as we are concerned, we have crossed the minimum cap and adhered to the rules."
Jaipur now plans to rope in some more players from India, some of them through their Cricket Star talent hunt, steered by former India coach Greg Chappell.
"We will be taking a few more players from India, especially through our Cricket Star programme through which we are currently talent-spotting across the country," Castellino said. "If we find some exceptional talent we will fast-track him into the team this season, but there will be somebody from the programme in the team definitely next time."
Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo in Bangalore