Close-In: Bid for best

IPL auction 2018, to be held on Janaury 27-28 in Bangalore, will be one big day for many cricketers. South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was concerned over his players getting distracted thinking of the auction while playing the Test match against India at the Wanderers.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the most popular 20-20 cricket tournament in the world and a financial boost for the participating cricketers. This year, IPL will have 578 cricketers on the block ﷓ 360 of them being Indians – but a maximum 182 players can find a slot. Cricketers from all the top cricket playing countries have put their names forward, hoping that Richard Madley, the famous IPL auctioneer, will bring them luck and good fortune.

But the eight franchises of the IPL team have a humungous task ahead. Although the salary purse of each of the IPL teams have increased to Rs 80 crore to spend, the average cost for acquiring a player will rise substantially. The challenge will be the valuation of a player and thereafter, balancing it on several parameters.

The players’ past performance is an easy assessment through new innovative software, but analysing each innings and bowling performance, keeping in mind the match situation and conditions could be an arduous task.

The IPL auction 10 years ago seems so primitive now. A name and number was called and players were bought according to each one’s fancy, without truly understanding the situation or the need. This was quite understandable, as 20-20 cricket was at a nascent stage then and teams and players were experimenting and trying to understand as to the right formula for consistent win. But 11th year of the auction and the IPL will be different. Cricket brains behind the scene have now spent countless hours analysing situations for a batsman, bowler, captain and fielder.

Cricket has never had it so good. Innovative stroke-play, variation in deliveries by bowlers and new concepts of fielding have all been very positive features for the game. The reverse sweep, uppercut, scoops and lofted shots are presently in the armoury of every player. This has now been added to the conventional style of batting look exciting. The bat has now become a sword of the past. The only difference is that the opponent is a bowler with a ball which is being hurled using every possible trick to deceive the batsman. The out-fielding has also become more glamorous with fielders diving, sliding and assisting each other in retrieving the ball or at times even catching it on the boundary line.

These innovations along with the multi-media channels beaming every action to millions of followers has intensified the competition among the players and has also made it pleasurable to the viewers.

The marquee and International capped players will get sorted in this auction depending on the desperation and game plan of each franchise. Some players will be bought for huge sums of money and others who may find disappointed. But the core structure of each team will revolve around the International and Indian capped players.

The induction of Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings will create some excitement. Players, who have been a part of both these franchisees in the earlier eight editions of the tournament, have got emotionally attached to it. Rajasthan have retained the present Australian captain Steve Smith. He will have tremendous positive effect not only on International cricketers but also on the young Indian’s they recruit. Chennai, on the other hand, have gone for the old tried and tested route of retaining India’s former successful captain, MS Dhoni. The auction therefore, will have one very challenging factor for each of the franchise owners. The ‘emotional element’ will play a major role in this year’s auction. Several players, some of who have become stars and superstars have been very closely associated with them. Evaluating these cricketers and pursuing aggressively to buy and retain them could generate some very high bidding figures. If franchises feel they can find a safe option by utilising the right to match (RTM) card and buy their pet players at a cheaper price, they may be in for a huge surprise. However, each franchise can retain maximum of five players from their roster, through pre-auction retention and RTM. This is where the owners will have to be very careful or else, it will eat into their kitty substantially. The fun, thereafter, will come about when the uncapped players are put on the block.

There are many good upcoming foreign and Indian young cricketers, but getting the best from amongst them will be the most difficult and interesting part of the IPL 2018 auction. After all, it was their role in the earlier IPLs that played an important part in a team winning or losing.

(The author is a former India cricketer)

Columnist: 
Yajurvindra Singh