Franchises cautious but open to Pakistan players
Even if the IPL auction on January 19 is a subdued affair, compared to the much hyped ones in the previous two years, one aspect that might generate attention is the case of the 11 Pakistan players in the final auction list of 66. The players, who remain good bets, were granted NOC's from the PCB to participate in the competition, but the uncertainty due to strained relations between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks could prompt some franchises to exercise restraint.
Most franchises agree the Pakistan players are bankable options, but some wish to remain cautious. "They [Pakistan] are the world champions and by that token they are definitely a good buy. But we still don't know if they might face any problem with getting the visas," an official from one of the franchises told Cricinfo.
His concern was echoed by another official from a rival franchise, who said he was open to buying the Pakistan players but would like to wield restraint. "Teams would definitely have some of the Pakistan names on the top of their lists but there still remains uncertainty with respect to the Indian government's stand, which can change any time."
The Pakistan government had not permitted its players to participate in the tournament last year, owing to security fears after the Mumbai attacks. Later, when the Pakistan players failed to procure the NOCs, the IPL shut its doors on them for missing out on the December 7 deadline. But, eventually, there emerged an opening when Pakistan's interior ministry cleared the players for participation in the IPL and, subsequently, the tournament's organisers extended the deadline for registrations into the auction pool to December 31.
Still, speculations have been rife in sections of the media that the IPL has advised franchises not to bid for Pakistan players, and thereby avoid any pressure from the Indian government. But Sundar Raman, IPL's chief operating officer, rubbished such reports. "That is rubbish. Then why would we put them in the auction," asked Raman.
Raman's query is valid, considering the IPL finalises the auction pool only after receiving the list of names from all the franchises, who decide on the players they want in the auction. "We haven't received any communication or directive from the IPL to avoid bidding for the Pakistan players in the auction," said an official from a third franchise.
The auction this year will be held in Mumbai.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo