The Indian Premier League (IPL) player auction reminds one of the movie Groundhog Day. In that film, the protagonist finds himself in a time loop, with the events of one day repeating themselves over and over again with some little variations. The last couple of years, the IPL tournament was somewhat similar as a mind numbing number of matches merged into one another; the auction this year too followed that pattern.
Yes, as Indian Premier League auctions go, this was a low-key affair, not only in the hype surrounding it but also in terms of the financial numbers. Thirty seven players, about a third of those who put themselves up for auction, got sold for $11.89 million. That’s an average of $321,000 compared with $438,800 in 2012 or $733,333 in 2011. There was only one IPL millionaire compared to three in the 2012 sale. One would have thought since the players bought in these auctions would be contracted for only one year (as opposed to two or three years in previous sales) team owners would have splurged a bit more.
But it proved true to IPL form, at least what has been happening in the past couple of years. Marquee players such as Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke were just about bought for their base prices, as if an afterthought, while outrageous amounts of money were thrown at newcomers. As we have pointed out earlier here, sometimes it makes sense not to overspend on star players as IPL is no longer an emerging tournament. Most teams are built around a core of players who have been around in those particular squads for a couple of years or more.
Still, it is difficult to find a justification for spending $1 million on Glen Maxwell or $700,000 on Kane Richardson, who are just about showing promise.
Virat Kohli who has edged himself into the international T20, one-day international and Test teams, there are failures such as Manish Pandey (remember his sparking 100 for Bangalore in the second edition of IPL?) or Paul Valthaty of Kings XI Punjab, who sparkled briefly like a shooting star.
Secondly, the auction is clearly loaded in favour of Indian players. Each playing 11 has to have at least seven locals and teams can buy up to 22 Indian players for their squads. With not enough quality local talent floating around, the five Indian players who put themselves for auction today fetched at least 2.5 times their reserve prices. That suggests, falsely, that these players are more talented and do well elsewhere. But the tournament itself does nothing to boost the quality of local players (one of the promises or premises on which it started in 2008).
The upshot is that each team is likely to have weak local links and the quality of cricket will have a stale air about it. In any case, with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa and England having their own T20 leagues, players have become jaded and all T20 matches seem to evoke a sense of déjà vu.
The real cricket was happening at Johannesburg when Dale Steyn ran through a Pakistani test batting line up. For Indians, the equivalent will be Nagpur in 18 days when India take on Australia in the first Test in Nagpur.