Former India captain Rahul Dravid has said T20 is "a complicated game" that is "not easy to decode". He is of the opinion that tactics in the format, especially in terms of squad building in the IPL, have sharpened to a point that the "depth of conversations" taking place in the franchises in recent years was "not happening anywhere else".
Dravid was reflecting on the evolution of T20 cricket on ESPNcricinfo Talking Cricket, a new, in-depth, interview-based show that begins airing on SONY ESPN on Friday. His experience in the format spans all nine seasons of the IPL and ranges from being a player and captain for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals to being a mentor for Royals and Delhi Daredevils.
"Some of the conversations that happen around IPL teams ... these conversations are not happening outside," Dravid said about the strategy involved in team building. "They are not happening in television studios as I have been on television studios, I know it. The depth of conversation that's happening about the T20 game within a team and within that environment is not happening anywhere else, which is what makes the T20 game unique.
"I wouldn't say there is no knowledge outside but there is not as much knowledge, I feel, and there are people who'll make comments like, 'Why is he doing this? Why is he doing that?' without actually understanding the dynamics of why it happens, what happens inside."
From being heavily skewed in favour of big-ticket international players, Dravid says teams have started to do their due diligence on Indian domestic talent, as evidenced by the most recent auction where Pawan Negi, M Ashwin and Krunal Pandya attracted huge bids.
"There is a lot more research being done. There is a lot more knowledge about young Indian domestic talent than there was say three or four years ago," Dravid said. "Suddenly, everyone has access to a lot of these young Indian domestic talents ... and every team comes really well prepared to the auction. It's very rare to find young Indian talents that are unheard of and you can pick out of nowhere for really cheap."
Dravid believed that the increased knowledge was a result of the Indian uncapped players being included in the player auction in recent years, as opposed to franchises being able to sign them outside the auction in earlier seasons. "In the past maybe teams didn't focus that much on young Indian domestic talent because they could either go and get them outside the auction and they could keep them and the whole auction was based around the international players, so there wasn't that much research in that sense needed. But I think today most teams recognize that you need domestic talent, and all the talent is in the auction."
The nature of the auction was unpredictable and fluid, Dravid said, an environment in which a single competitor for a player could force a change in plans. "A lot of times I have gone into auctions and said, 'Okay, we'll get this player cheap because not many know him'. All it requires is one other team to value that player and have money to spend and, you know, you could end up losing him because you can't match up in the auction.
"A good example of this year's auction would be someone like Carlos Brathwaite. Who would have thought that he would go for the price [INR 4.2 crore] he did, but obviously KKR [Kolkata Knight Riders], who have a team in the CPL [Trinbago Knight Riders], knew about him as much as the people who are looking at the Delhi team knew about him. I think auctions are quite dynamic and they sort of vary all the time. Everyone goes in with a strategy, everyone goes in with tactics, everyone goes in with certain ideas but you have got to think on your feet."
While admitting that managing a team in which some players have substantially bigger price tags than others was challenging, Dravid said the the harder task was to ensure playing time for everyone in a large squad.
"Sometimes players also may not understand the dynamic of an auction, they don't understand why certain players have gone for so much money and why someone else has gone for such less," he said. "Players are getting better at it. They are also beginning to understand that sometimes the dynamics of an auction are quite unique ...
"The challenges in the IPL are more around playing time and players in the playing XI. I think that's one of the big challenges because you have squads of 23, 24, 25 and only 11 can play. You have only four foreigners who can play at any given point of time so that sometimes has more of an effect on a team than money. I think after some time, at least to the coaches and to the mentors, I don't think people bring up the money issue so much, at least that's my experience."
Watch ESPNcricinfo Talking Cricket with Rahul Dravid at 9.30 pm (IST) on July 8 (Friday) on SONYESPN