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Decoding the auction

Some of the buys and omissions may have looked puzzling at the time, but there were solid enough reasons

Harsha Bhogle

January 14, 2011

Comments: 42 | Text size: A | A

Daniel Christian sends one down, Royal Challengers Bangalore v South Australia, Champions League Twenty20, Durban, September 17, 2010
It helped to be Australian at the auction, like Daniel Christian © AFP
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The IPL auction has come and gone. About time too. The socialists complained about income disparities, academicians searched for patterns, some players prayed for more one-day games in Zimbabwe so they could get into the auction next time, and the fans just heaved a sigh of relief that it was done so they could, as the case may be, build or renew associations with players and teams.

And so, four days after it was over, and the sadder madness of chasing uncapped players has begun, it is time to see what stood out and what the franchise owners were thinking. Contrary to the passionate views held by many, the franchise owners had a pattern, were prepared and were emotionless. Within the constraints of the system, they did well.

Some cricketers became multi-millionaires, others scratched their heads wondering if they were that far away from approval. I think it is important to understand that the amounts earned by players did not emerge out of a truly global price-value equation. This was scarcity-induced pricing and the Indian players benefited from being on the right side of the supply-demand situation - like middle-men who sell onions do, I'm told! The I in the IPL was the most important factor.

It means that the genuine quality professionals from overseas, who were closer to the centre of the supply-demand situation than at an extreme, shouldn't compare their fees with those the Indian players earned. They could easily look at them with a "since-when-did-you-become-a-better-player-than-me" kind of bitterness, but they must be aware that they were playing on a different field. It is not a comparison of equals.

Interestingly franchises assigned a significant premium to leadership skills. I have long held the view that in the IPL a leader needs not just to be tactically aware but needs also to possess the ability to bring together players from completely different backgrounds and sensibilities. Players come from different lands, are thrown together for a very short while and then return to discover the joys of their real homes. In this temporary melting pot of diverse cultures the leader must, very quickly, seek to bring cohesion. It is different from being captain of your national side, and that is why I believe a good leader is worth two players. Gautam Gambhir, Mahela Jayawardene and Adam Gilchrist benefited from skills beyond the playing field and earned a handsome premium.

It helped to be an Australian player and there was a feeling - maybe sometimes justified - that Aussie coaches were getting their boys a good deal. Well, for a start, that happens everywhere. CEOs move with their teams and negotiate healthy pay packages, football managers want players they have worked with before.

But it isn't just that. Franchise owners are getting smarter; their money isn't just blowin' in the wind. There is now a fairly strong perception that Australian cricketers exhibit strong commitment, are good team players, are fit and always a plus in the field. (Again, such perceptions exist everywhere. For example, that Indian software professionals will work long hours without complaining.)

I suspect some of the heady pricing might have been contained if the uncapped players had been signed before the auction. But given that the IPL and the BCCI were in court till a day before the auction, that wasn't possible

By contrast the "made in Bangladesh" tag doesn't seem to have the same strength, as we saw with the extraordinary lack of interest in Tamim Iqbal, one of my earliest picks. Again, this is a matter of evolution. We in India have long suffered from the "made in India" tag. Time and performance will change that perception for Bangladeshi players. Already Shakib Al Hasan is emerging as a wonderful ambassador.

Availability became an issue and it isn't difficult to see why. With players coming and going, teams wore an unsettled look. You could see that with the Royal Challengers, and clearly having a full side for the duration became important. I suspect that was reflected in the lack of interest in a few English players (though the rather frosty relationship between the IPL and the ECB might have contributed to the uncertainty too), and it certainly was the issue with Chris Gayle, who would otherwise certainly have commanded a huge price. Gayle, Bravo and Pollard had refused to sign WICB contracts, but West Indies are playing international cricket at the time of the IPL, and the fear that the WICB might insist on its players turning up for it meant one of Twenty20's greatest entertainers will be missing.

I suspect some of the heady pricing might have been contained if the uncapped players had been signed before the auction. But given that the IPL and the BCCI were in court till a day before the auction, that wasn't possible, and that made things much more messy. And led to the mad, unfettered pursuit of players later. Young players are being yanked into one corner, then into another, with offers and incentives (in itself strange since they cannot legally be paid beyond the price points set up by the BCCI), and that cannot be good. The IPL has, necessarily, to resolve the issue of uncapped players, and to be honest, that might well be achieved if law courts cease to play the predominant role in Indian cricket.

For all the drama, I hope this is the last auction. And while that means a solution to the salary cap will need to be found, the larger issue of spectator loyalty needs to be kept upfront. It should still be a very good tournament but it is a little more bruised than it would like to be.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

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Posted by sarathy_m2 on (January 17, 2011, 14:52 GMT)

Hope this is last auction! Good Views!!

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (January 16, 2011, 0:44 GMT)

BIG MONEY is keeping it up but the product cycle is on the decline. There needs to be some development in product IPL. introduction of pakistani players will surely make a difference, their have a few veryexiting 20 players. For Global audience, you need at least 4 players from every test nation to be in the playing 11s. Any team having 2 english players will be considered by British to be their team and same goes for other nations. If you make it look like AUS and IND common league then it wont work for long. I had better liked if it was a league where two teams were from Pakistan, one from SL, and so on. rivalary is must and that u cant creat the way frenchises are making it look like.

Posted by UNIVERSAL_CRICKETER on (January 15, 2011, 11:15 GMT)

Think +ve......IPL is the best thing that happened to Indian cricket.....after Sachin..........Indian players are sharing dressing room with the best players in the world......watching them as colleague......getting valuable experience & confidence from them......& last but not the least...every international player now wants to play in India....some even against their boards wishes......thus giving BCCI a major economic power to wield......................On the Sourav Ganguly omission....we all respect & admire him.....he gave steel to Indian players.......but better to go out with dignity & respect instead of being pushed & feel unwanted.....why did he raise his base price from $ 2m to $ 4m.....was he chased by all the 10 IPL franchisee....or was he getting younger...or was his performance skyrocketing.........Accepting mentors role would have been a humble gesture....instead of making it an ego issue...... humility makes Sachin the greatest that he is........

Posted by Thunee_man_Naidoo on (January 15, 2011, 10:53 GMT)

In my opinion I think some players like Brian Lara or Chris Gayle simply had a high base price compared at which the franchises were willing to start at. If their base prices were brought down by only $100, 000 or so then I'm sure they would've attracted far more bids.

Posted by scarletbluegunner on (January 15, 2011, 10:50 GMT)

@Abhinav Kumar & Rishi Darira: Was hoping that if there are a lot of complaints, some action might be taken. With World Cup coming up, one wouldn't want to watch 4 ball overs on 21" on a 29" TV. Any lawyers around who cud file a PIL !!!!

Posted by Rahulbose on (January 15, 2011, 9:19 GMT)

I now see the IPL at the same level as masala Bollywood movies, the same monetary dynamics are at work and in some cases the same people as well. Ultimately if the fans will flock to see sub-quality cricket then IPL owners have no problem providing the quick fix. Why are you so concerned wiith decoding the patterns and motivations of this auction? Shouldn't a true journalist comment at the arbitrary nature of the rules setup by IPL. How corrupt the whole enterprise has become, where the board and IPL commitee has done away with even the pretense of fairness.

Posted by   on (January 15, 2011, 9:03 GMT)

@ Rishi Darira...You have hit nail on the head. Ads are ubiquitous on CKT channel. Just bcoz of this, now i am repenting that I should have purchased a 50+ inch TV instead of 40".......... also I am now watching matches on DD instead of TEN cricket as it shows lesser nos. of ads; never mind the commentators on DD as I think Anjum chopra is better commentator than the likes of Pollock, Jackman, Mbangwa, + Charu.

Posted by ashok16 on (January 15, 2011, 5:03 GMT)

Cant wait for the World Cup to be done with and IPL to start. For those who don't get the IPL: IPL is like Bollywood. Will not win any Oscars but is plenty fun and entertaining. And for those who claim sport is skill and not entertainment - suckers!

Posted by Aussie_Mike on (January 15, 2011, 2:40 GMT)

Eng are the current T20 champions and not Pak.

Posted by nlambda on (January 14, 2011, 21:50 GMT)

@Eliem Leon: How is Pak the "best" 20-20 team? Isn't that England, the WC winners who beat Australia who twice beat Pak in that WC? And Michael Hussey of THAT semi-final fame is indeed playing in the IPL :-)

Posted by cmloga on (January 14, 2011, 21:21 GMT)

As far as I am concerned I still after 3 years do not see the point of the IPL? What is its reason for existence? How does it contribute to the sport? What has it done for the improvement of the sport? Let alone cricket in general I don't think it has even contributed anything for the betterment of T20 also. If it is aspiring to be a major sporting league like the football leagues world over so far it has not come even close to fulfilling that laudable objective. Its existense seems exclusively commercial. While I have nothing against players and everyone else concerned with the IPL making money can that alone be a sufficient reason for its existence?

Posted by   on (January 14, 2011, 20:56 GMT)

you could have written more on salary cap on uncapped players, some better suggestions and somehow some attempt to prevent uncapped players from this situation. Everybody looks for better opportunity and better money. Preventing somebody from earning great money is not good enough solution for preventing them being spoiled and maintain their interest to play for India. a player can get spoiled even after his international debut which sometime makes a player hero in a day. how can you prevent Sourabh tiwari's from getting spoilt? what would be fate of players like manish pandey? his case has come into light but I am quite sure there would be plenty of other cases. How fair is it for Kumble to approach players to sign for RCB being president of KCA (srinivasan is worst). what would a player answer? there are too many reasons and if I ask you to write a article against salary cap then you would definitely know all the reasons and come up with 100s more which even I don't know

Posted by Crazy_Cricket_Fan on (January 14, 2011, 20:08 GMT)

@pom_basher@..dure thats funny..but true..i have the same feeling..

Posted by Angad11 on (January 14, 2011, 19:48 GMT)

This article should have been titled Ripping Apart the Auction and not Decoding. Dont agree with many views of Harsha, the IPL is bringing close to two months of cricket extravaganza, just sit back and enjoy man. Have to agree on the "Made in Bangladesh" point though, who would want to buy a jacket that is tagged Made in Bdesh. Funny isnt it?

Posted by   on (January 14, 2011, 19:20 GMT)

Sorry but the whole thing bored me to tears last time and I will not be watching this time round

Posted by   on (January 14, 2011, 19:09 GMT)

@scarletbluegunner- I am surprised that nobody really complains about the excessive ads during a cricket match. It's getting worse, a phone explodes on the ground, the screen gets smaller and there is ads all around, soon they will replace a players face with a product and they will expect us to stare at that. (I can imagine a Channel executive surprised as why they think of this before). No where else has this level of excessive marketing used. This constant zooming in and out gives me a headache. They take more than 50% of the screen when zooming in which breaks the the following rule -

Juxtapose an advertisement with a program in such a manner that not more than 20% of the screen is used to carry captions, static or moving images alongside the program.

Posted by Mina_Anand on (January 14, 2011, 18:35 GMT)

You say we 'suffered' from the 'made in india' tag. Why the past tense ? You yourself seem to prefer the 'foreign' hands. Why go in for 'aussie' coaches, when we have made in india ones? Why the feeling that overseas players perform better? That too, in Indian conditions? Why give in to foreign perceptions - about an Indian icon !

Posted by tareks_bangladesh on (January 14, 2011, 18:11 GMT)

Harsha is right bout not picking up Tamim.....in a way I love this context now.....in about a month Tamim will take the bat to face Indian Bowlers...and this chap play phenomenally when he feel challenged...he showed both at home and abroad....specially in Manchester and Lord's....what he can do with the English attack...let me remind u before the Lord's test when Geofry (my mom is good at every sport) wrote off Bangladesh.......and make no mistake last time in Caribbean this guy was 17 and played with Indian attack....so I will just seat and enjoy the Feb 19th 2011.....

Posted by Kochikkaran on (January 14, 2011, 18:07 GMT)

@Ahmad - Dude, as Harsha said, don't compare between an Indian Player and a Foreign player. A team can play only 4 foreigners at a time. They need to find 7 Indian players. So Demand is more for Indian players and if you have minimum quality, you will earn a big pay check.

@Dr.Jha, same as above. Ravindra gets more money than Shakib.

And lack of players from Pak, Eng and WI will definitely be reducing the quality of cricket. But then the same 4 outsider rule is going to mean than Franchises will get enough quality players from outside these countries. From these countries the player participation is not 100% guaranteed because of multiple issues.

And regarding Loyalty, let's not support players when we have a home team. Bangaloreans can always back RCB irrespective of their favorite players being in that team or not.

Posted by D.Nagarajan on (January 14, 2011, 14:39 GMT)

Lets look at this differently, in the past, players in domestic cricket in India had little means of good revenue after their playing days were over unless they had another professional qualification. Now one can be a truly professional cricketer in India aiming to play till the max. age of 40 and hope to retire to a secure future, this alone has been the biggest positive of the IPL. Sportsmen come with a use by date and they need to make the most of it as long as they are active. Footballers make obscene amounts so why not cricketers. I exclude the overseas players who have social security to bank on post retirement. IPL is a Godsend, it may not be most professionally run but its fantastic for our domestic cricketers. People in India love cricket like Brazilians love football so IPL will remain popular. I hope IPL evolves and becomes more professional. The fact remains that Test cricket is the No 1 form of cricket and the most beautiful.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2011, 13:30 GMT)

Ah Mr Bhogle. Nice article but it's more than just about spectator loyalty from India. This is a global spectator based event and unfortunately the "BEST" 20-20 players of the world are unrepresented. The pakistani's will be missed again ensuring the tournament remains average once again

Posted by scarletbluegunner on (January 14, 2011, 13:09 GMT)

Urge people to complain about ads interfering with cricket on TV on http://emmc.gov.in/CodesAndStandards.aspx According to this site its illegal.

Posted by bhushan_india on (January 14, 2011, 10:40 GMT)

Spectator Loyalty in Mumbai Indians :Major Mumbai Ranaji Players playing for other franchises, Zaheer for RCB, Abhishek Nair for Punjab, Agarkar for DD, Powar for Kochi, Ajinkye Rahane for RR, Dhawal Kulkarni for Pune, Iqbal Abdulla for KKR, Siddharth Chitnis for Punjab. Without face of Mumbai players hoiw can we corelate to Mumbai Indian team. Only Tendulkar in the team & then whole gang of outside players. This same is happening in DC & DDR & RCB. This will not help. I was expecting atleast Nair, Rahane & Abdula to remain in the team, but MI did not got them.

Posted by pom_basher on (January 14, 2011, 10:19 GMT)

I have a completely unrelated question - not sure where to post, so posting it here. Why does England get so much coverage on cricinfo ahead of other countries? England's tour match grabs headlines ahead of International Tests and ODIs. England womens T20 appears on front page and Ind-WI womens ODI doesnt get a mention.... is it only me or is the website bit tilted?

Posted by dyogesh on (January 14, 2011, 9:35 GMT)

I don't understand why Harsha is trying hard to justify corporate India too much. They aren't the deliverers of India. I am not sure some of the price-tags had solid reasons. Dan Christian was classic case. Look at KKR. Who are their bowlers ? Lee, Unadkat etc.. You'll see that many teams are very imbalanced. They've tried to get one or two star players. And it is sad that one of India's best and popular cricketing voices is turning a blind eye to the excesses of a certain N.S.

Posted by jimbond on (January 14, 2011, 8:54 GMT)

The simplest option for uncapped players was to auction them the way the other players were auctioned in the second round. Each team could be asked to give a list of players they would be interested in, at a base price (of 20 or 30 lakh or whatever), and if they are no other takes for that player, they get them. If there are more than one bidders, then auction them. If at the end of the first auction, teams need some more players, they can contact them directly. As of now, the rule by BCCI seems to be directed at enablng exploitation by the team owners.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2011, 8:09 GMT)

I Strongly Agree with Harsha's point on Spectator Loyalty... & hope this is the last IPL Auction. At present BCCI & IPL do not care about the crowd which is bringing them the money & fame.

Posted by VKFan on (January 14, 2011, 6:33 GMT)

"they cannot legally be paid beyond the price points set up by the BCCI" -- really? It's the BCCI, not Parliament :-) What's to stop a franchise from signing a separate "sponsorship" contract with a player? Or some sort of modelling or promotional deal? As long as the money is paid and taxed appropriately, it would be perfectly legal. I doubt that the BCCI would have legal means of stopping such contracts on the side -- that in itself would be illegal restraint of trade, surely?

Posted by Maverick73 on (January 14, 2011, 6:24 GMT)

this is a typical Harsha's article. You touched upon one aspect but did not elaborate more. "Spectator loyalty".

Cricket madness in India will always bring crowds to the stadium. However, I won't be supporting any team this time. I was a big supporter of RCB for the first 3 seasons and was quite happy with their performances. But in IPL 4, RCB does not have the "locals" (Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Robin Uthappa, Vinay Kumar and i read about Manish Pandey opting for Pune, etc.). The current team will have some players from the Karnataka Ranji team but where are the big ones? I am not sure how many people will staunchly support RCB? Chennai & Mumbai seem to have performed better than the other teams on "spectator loyalty".

I'll be watching these players and their performances and will be wishing (eternally) that they succeed for their respective teams.

Posted by RajitD on (January 14, 2011, 6:16 GMT)

For the good of IPL, I hope we have a tournament free of controversy. The only wasy to strengthen the brand is to have a tournament where only the cricket does the talking, and not off field controversy.

Posted by crickeyt on (January 14, 2011, 6:01 GMT)

All the players, from every cricket-playing country in the world, want to play in the IPL. It is just pure common sense that the ICC create a window for it. Boards like ECB and WICB that have scheduled tours despite knowing the IPL timeline are just doing their own players a disservice. That said, the BCCI also needs to guarantee that it will stick to a particular window for the IPL and not come up with things like two IPLs in a year (although, it is difficult to see that not happening given how much money these franchises spend - surely they will not be satisfied with having advertising eyeballs for only 5-6 weeks a year).

Posted by ram_sachin on (January 14, 2011, 5:18 GMT)

Its pathetic and Crazy seeing the unsung players going for a million dollars... and the proven ones.. well below it.. In the case of Irfan.. i think he's the most Overpaid cricketer one could see in that list, since he's not played an International match since God knows how many months.... Poor Choice DD..

Posted by aarpee2 on (January 14, 2011, 5:10 GMT)

the lack of availability of players from Pakistan ,West Indies and England renderss the IPL lacklustre and narrows the choices due to demand exceeding supply .In a situation like this the ordinary earn extr-ordinary remuneration for 20 to 25 days in the field cumulatively for a 20 over excertion of fielding and a few overs of batting or bowling at best .This is further enhanced by making the game favourable to batsmen with all restictions and penalties on bowlers.is this really a contest.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2011, 5:05 GMT)

No words on dada!! in this article by harsha!! quite puzzled to see ot

Posted by Percy_Fender on (January 14, 2011, 5:04 GMT)

I am surprised Harsha, that you find every bid based on reason. Johann Botha going for a phenomenal price can only have been if the bidder had mistaken him for Ian Botham. In most cases I think the bidders did not have much cricketing sense. Just like people not knowing which car to buy in the hatchback segment. How else would you explain Graham Swann being left out on the other hand. The English County season starts only in May really and in any case it is perhaps too early for a spinner to make a mark there given the cold.In any case Swann is not someone who is trying to get into the England team. I am not sure of any other reason for Swann to have been left out.Similarly much as I have liked Robin Uthappa a few years earlier, he just does not have much to show now. Frankly speaking I get the impression that owning an IPL franchise has perhaps,become a status symbol. An opportunity for attractive young people to show how wealthy they are. It has little to do with cricket

Posted by   on (January 14, 2011, 4:48 GMT)

such perceptions exist everywhere. For example, that Indian software professionals will work long hours without complaining-- bang on.. :)

Posted by   on (January 14, 2011, 4:44 GMT)

I dont understand the mindset of the owners. eg Bravo gets picked but Gayle ignored. Likewise Kevin and Collie and Broad, but Bopara and Swann are ignored. You take Rahul but ignore Saurav, WHATS going on ? Why allow the uncapped players to be messed around by the board? Even a child will tell you that they will be offered unaccounted incentives; so they should have been auctioned off just like the others. even those auctioned wil be offered additional incentives depending on how many matches they play and win.

Posted by eomer17 on (January 14, 2011, 4:26 GMT)

not too sure about gambhir and mahela as good leaders.gilly for sure.

Posted by bks123 on (January 14, 2011, 4:09 GMT)

It's sad that harsha has not written a single sentence as to why were the franchises not interested in Ganguly. At least a reasonable explanation from harsha was anticipated. But like the franchises, harsha also thought it worthwhile to neglect ganguly. It is definitely not his batting as he scored 493 runs (4th among the top run getters) last time around and age cannot be a factor as dravid and laxman were sold out. So what's the reason Harsha? Is it his attitude? A guy who was praised heavily for his attitude when he was a successful INDIA captain a few years back has been neglected for the same by a domestic league, which bought very very low standard players like jadeja for 950k. I was praying that MI (sachin) will buy him and we will see the greatest indian opening pair blasting for the last time around. This was anticipated as MI lacks a lefty batsman in their line up. May be 2m$ for rohit was the reason that MI ran out of cash and sachin was finally not able to buy ganguly.

Posted by dr.jha on (January 14, 2011, 3:58 GMT)

there was something amiss in ravindra jadeja's bidding.. chennai bid first up...one of the hot shots of bcci own chennai team. deccan raise .. they fight for him..price upto 350k , pune jump in ..pune and deccan take price upto 475k.. chennai do not bid after 300k... did they plan to buy him actually ??? now pune thinks hard after 475.. suddenly delhi join in ... delhi and deccan take price upto 700... now deccan hesitate... they probably wanted him but not at this price... suddenly ... out of nowhere.. kochi join in ... kochi was in trouble till very recently.. why do they want him ??? were they directed to buy him ?? delhi and kochi fight over him. take price upto 900 k and then delhi gives up... now here is the twist...next up shakib al hasan.. if u wanted an alrounder.. can't get jadeja.. y not bid for him... none of the above teams bid except pune...delhi wanted jadeja so bad but not shakib.. i don't think every thing was in right place in that sequence of event...

Posted by   on (January 14, 2011, 3:52 GMT)

Sorry ! dont agree with u Harsha.....................Gautum is not by any means a better T20 player than Gayle......................even if Gayle is to play 70 % Matches he is worth more than his base price.....................

AB Devilliers is one of the finest T20 player who went so cheap. Considering Gangully's past performances he too is worth at least his base price...and as far as future prospects considering age are concerned then Dravid too shouldn't have been bought. McCullum, Jayasuria & above all Gibbs should have been bought at high prices.

Rohit is really not worth his price and Irfan is such an allrounder who can neither bowl well nor can bat. Only Yousaf went at his deserving price

Posted by AravindTE on (January 14, 2011, 3:13 GMT)

@Harsha, selection based on availability will force the boards and ICC to go for separate window for IPL.... way to go IPL ................

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Harsha Bhogle Harsha Bhogle is one of the world's leading cricket commentators. Starting off as a chemical engineer and going on to work in advertising before moving into television, he is also a writer, quiz host, television presenter and talk-show host, and a corporate motivational speaker. He was voted Cricinfo readers' "favourite cricket commentator" in a poll in 2008, and one of his proudest possessions is a photograph of a group of spectators in Pakistan holding a banner that said "Harsha Bhogle Fan Club". He has commentated on nearly 100 Tests and more than 400 ODIs.

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