The cricketing quotient behind the glam
Beyond the glitz, the glamour and the (very) big numbers, there was a lot of serious cricket logic at work in Goa. Ajay Shankar looks at the trends running through the 2009 IPL auction.
They've been dialling +44 ever since the IPL got off the drawing board last year, and England picked up the phone only a couple of weeks ago to set the switchboard buzzing. And on Friday all that hard work paid off: In just over two hours of frantic bidding, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara took home a combined pay cheque of US$ 4.1 million from a total spend of US$ 7.6 million.
And so there was Vijay Mallya, Pietersen safely in the bag, grinning like the cat that got the cream, and N Srinivasan, the owner of the Chennai Super Kings, smugly swatting aside questions after bagging Flintoff. No matter that, like the Australians last year, the England stars are available only for the first half of the IPL; they will be used by the franchises as this season's 'impact players' to kickstart their campaigns. Spare a thought, though, for the England dressing room in Kingston, thousands of miles away from Goa, where Pietersen and Flintoff will shake hands over US$ 1.55 million each while the rest will look on - in envy?
Goodbye, Australia. Or is it?
Only two Australians sold from a total of 17 up for grabs! The aftershocks of Australia's fall from grace on the cricket field are echoing in the boardrooms and auction houses. Stuart 'Accurate' Clark would have been snapped up last year but went unsold, and the 'no sale' sign on Brad Haddin was clearly embarrassing. In fact, Australia have only Shaun Tait's $375,000 deal with the Rajasthan Royals to shout about this year - Tasmanian George Bailey's signing for his base price of US$ 50,000 surely doesn't count.
There is, though, some perspective: almost all the Australian internationals were snapped up last year and the only two big players available this time, Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson, pulled out of the IPL auction. Besides, potential big-ticket items, such as David Warner, Ryan Harris, Andrew MacDonald and Dirk Nannes, were signed up by the franchises long before the auction. Even so, 15 out of 17 unsold? Disappointing, definitely.
Can bat, can bowl, can field? You're in
If there's one thing that hasn't changed from the last IPL, it's the lure of multi-skilled players. If you take out Tait, Kyle Mills, Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor, the franchises have once again opted for cricketers who are allrounders, at least in the Twenty20 sense: useful in more ways than one on the cricket field, either as partnership-breakers with the ball or as brilliant fielders. Ravi Bopara, who was purchased by Kings XI Punjab for US$ 450,000, is a shining example with his 'mixed bowling' and even Shah and Duminy can set the IPL alight with their fielding.
Like team, like player
A few days before the auction, an official from the Bangalore franchise offered an interesting explanation when asked why Mallya would go "all the way" for Pietersen. "KP, in a way, reflects what Mallya is all about: the puffed-out chest, the swagger, the big talk." Mallya got his man and his team's profile a huge boost but it's not just KP, many of the picks at this auction reflect a clear match between the team and the player. Tyron Henderson is not a heavyweight player but can punch much above his weight, which is what his new team, Rajasthan, are all about; Bopara, with his UK home and Punjabi roots, is just what Kings XI Punjab want; and Mortaza, whose country is just a bus journey away from Kolkata, could almost be a local hero for the Kolkata Knight Riders. The odd man out: Big Freddie Flintoff, of pedalo fame, and the sedate world of Downtown Chennai.
The Bangladesh dilemma In Bangladesh, they don't know whether to laugh or cry. First they were shocked when Shakib Al Hasan, till recently the ICC's top ODI allrounder, was dumped without a bid. Then there was awe after Mashrafe Mortaza, the talismanic allrounder, brought home $600,000. And finally the anti-climax, when Mohammed Ashraful, the national skipper, was picked up by the Mumbai Indians for $75,000, his base price, almost as an afterthought. Now, Bangladesh may have reason to worry, too - imagine Ashraful coming face-to-face in the dressing room with Mortaza. When asked to visualize such a scene this afternoon, a Bangladesh official laughed nervously in reply. Mortaza's $600,000 purchase is the talk of the IPL, and it's only but natural to wonder what the effect of the two purchases - and the unsolds - will be within the Bangladeshi team.
Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo