Not long ago, India’s sports budget for the entire year was about Rs 600 crores. Now, it’s Rs 453 crores for six weeks of IPL.
If you thought only Indian skipper Virat Kohli was getting his priorities wrong, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) was not to be left behind. On a day Kohli made some baffling changes in the squad for the second Test in Centurion, with in-form Bhuvneshwar Kumar making way for Ishant Sharma, the press release from the BCCI was all about wrong timing.
At a time when social media does not waste seconds in lashing out at the logic-defying decisions made by Kohli, the BCCI seems inert to all this.
The Indian Premier League mega auction for the 11th edition will be taking place in Bengaluru in a fortnight’s time. Yet, it chose Saturday to come out with the news that even Joe Root wishes to be part of the auction along with another 25 players from England.
There is nothing like watching Test cricket and relishing it or loathing it if things do not go the fans’ way. In the best of times, the BCCI decisions have been bizarre, so to put out a press release highlighting details of players available for the auction was not great timing.
Given the short attention span of sports fans these days, with so much news and views to consume in the digital world, the IPL auction details does make the news.
Take the classic case of England. When the IPL began in 2008, they scoffed at it. In fact, for the traditional guardian of what was a gentleman’s game, the IPL was blasphemy. That, perhaps, was the reason someone like Kevin Pietersen had to literally beg the English cricket board to let him play in the IPL.
Times have changed. This summer, the Englishmen, depending on the number of players who will be picked, will most likely fly into India for the IPL from New Zealand. It will be a hectic trip and tiresome season here before they return home for the series against Pakistan.
Heck, who cares about travel woes, jetlag, change in weather conditions, fatigue and so on. The IPL is the balm cricketers need with a whopping Rs 453 crores available for the eight teams to spend on January 27 and 28.
If the 2011 auction was described as an IPL bazaar, this one promises to be like a mega auction with no discounts! There is a small difference between the 2011 big auction and 2018 as this time there are only eight teams, unlike 10 in 2011, with Kochi Tuskers and a Pune side also in fray.
Just as T20 cricket sees innovations on a regular basis with batsmen, bowlers, fielders and the think-tank getting smarter, the men who will sit on the auction tables need to do the quick thinking.
The eight IPL franchises, which includes the two teams returning from a two-year ban — Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals — have already made their intentions clear with player retention.
For that matter, with teams retaining the players who they feel will be very important, there is scope for them to still add two more of their former players via the RTM (right to match) card. This is an important part of the auction as the teams may be able to pick players who were part of their sides for a relatively lesser amount.
The star cast of players up for grabs is very impressive. From former Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir to Yuvraj Singh and R Ashwin to Harbhajan Singh and Ajinkya Rahane, all are available. Add to it surprise spinner Kuldeep Yadav and traditional openers like KL Rahul and Murali Vijay, the choices are huge.
From overseas, there is jazzy and powerful attraction where someone like Chris Gayle, well known for his exploits in the IPL, Ben Stokes, Pat Cummins and Mitch Starc will also be part of the auction cast. The Aussie and West Indies players will also hope to get picked as there is nothing like making money from the IPL.
Just take a look at some of the other names, smashing Glenn Maxwell, star all-rounder Shane Watson and seasoned pros like Dwayne Bravo, Carlos Brathwaite, and Jason Holder are in fray. There are also 57 players from South Africa who have signed up for the auction and 39 from Sri Lanka.
Add to the mix someone like rising star Prithvi Shaw, who was in outstanding form at home last season, team owners and strategists have abundance of talent to look at.
Shaw’s performance in the ICC under-19 World Cup will be looked at closely, just as talent hunters like TA Sekar were watching the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament in Delhi where they could spot talent in uncapped players.
How the South Africans shape up in the ongoing Test series will also be important as they can be good prospects for the IPL. In the past, teams went with big names and correspondingly spent big bucks.
The key is not to overspend, which owners have now learnt from the experience of the last decade. Not long ago, the national sports budget for the entire year was projected at Rs 600 crores. Mind you, that was for the whole year.
Now, it’s Rs 453 crores for pyjama cricket played for around six weeks in the killing Indian summer heat! #KhabarLive