It was the first instance of the Indian Premier League’s (IPL’s) player auction being held outside India. It was the first time the auction was held in front of a live audience. It was the first time a female auctioneer conducted the auction. And to top it all, it was the first time that a player—two, was sold for more than Rs. 20 crore.
Besides these firsts, the auction preceding the 17th edition of the IPL gave a glimpse of several noteworthy aspects related to the IPL’s financial dynamics. Here are a few of them.
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Value and worth
A player’s worth does not necessarily reflect his value at an auction. For instance, Mitchell Starc being sold for more than double what his Kolkata Knight Riders captain Shreyas Iyer fetched in 2022 doesn’t mean he is more valuable than Shreyas to KKR.
Similarly, Gerald Coetzee’s Rs. 5 crore valuation might suggest, by the conclusion of IPL 2024, that he may have been undervalued at the auction. Such dynamics make IPL auctions refreshing, although the concept itself may have reached its sell-by date.
Recency bias plays a part. It was reflected in the Australian trio of Travis Head, Pat Cummins, and Starc returning to the IPL with a bang. Similarly, Daryl Mitchell and his Kiwi junior Rachin Ravindra also hit the headlines, one for getting his worth and the other as a possible steal.
Pace is pace, yaar
If overseas allrounders were the flavour of the IPL 2023 player auction, come the auction for the 2024 edition, it was the fast bowlers that raked in the moolah.
Of the 39 crorepatis that emerged from the auction, a whopping 21 are pace bowlers. Ten of those fetched equal to or more than Rs. 5 crore.
No doubt the Knight Riders had to refill virtually their entire pace bowling unit, but even the other teams had to change their strategies at the last minute. It is understood that during the pre-auction briefing on the eve of the event in Dubai, an IPL executive told the gathering about the amendment of two bouncers being allowed per over.
It made the teams go big on fast bowlers. It will be interesting to see if the pacers succeed in bouncing out the opposition batters come March 22.
Domestic talent gets its due
They had been excluded from the auction for the first few editions. But ever since domestic uncapped cricketers were inducted into the auction fold in 2014, some of the little-known domestic cricketers have been earning big bucks.
Over the last couple of years, the IPL authorities have gone a step further and have started introducing domestic cricketers up front in the auction. It’s resulted in more crorepatis among the domestic pack.
The trend continued this time around as eight domestic uncapped cricketers were signed for an eight-figure sum. Chennai Super Kings outbid others to have Sameer Rizvi, a hard-hitting Uttar Pradesh batter, on its roster for a stunning Rs. 8.40 crore, while Delhi Capitals went all the way to have Jharkhand wicketkeeper-batter Kumar Kushagra on board for Rs. 7.40 crore.
“All the domestic players are looking forward to the IPL. Delhi was the first to back the youngsters. We talk about Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, and Prithvi (Shaw); we are the ones who backed them when they had hardly played T20 cricket,” said Praveen Amre, the Delhi Capitals assistant coach. “Even this year, we wanted to have Kumar Kushagra with us. He is another guy we have backed, and hopefully, he will justify it because we have invested in and retained all the names I mentioned earlier. As team management, we are happy to back the youngsters as well.”
Kushagra’s fellow Jharkhand ‘keeper-hitter Robin Minz fetched more than Rs. 3 crore towards the end of the auction. Tamil Nadu’s left-arm spinner, M. Siddharth, went for Rs 2 crore plus, thus underscoring the extensive scouting system of IPL franchises.
The familiarity factor
Stephen Fleming has been the Chennai Super Kings head coach since the 2009 edition. The New Zealand legend has brought the best out of Devon Conway at the top of the order. Conway will have company in the Kiwi club at CSK, with the five-time champion adding Mitchell and Ravindra.
Daniel Vettori, another Kiwi legend, was Australia’s assistant coach for the last two years. It wasn’t just a coincidence, then, that immediately after Vettori was appointed head coach, Sunrisers Hyderabad went big on signing Pat Cummins and Travis Head.
A former India opener during the IPL retention show referred to it as the bias of overseas coaches. But more than the B-word, it’s the familiarity and comfort with certain players that work for overseas coaches.
“You know their availability in their medical records, so that’s a good starting point. There is a comfort level there,” Vettori said in Dubai.
“You have seen them up close and how they work and how they go about things. And so you have trust in their style of play and an understanding of how they can fit into a team. So I think that gives you a level of confidence that you can bring them into the environment.”
The familiarity syndrome is not limited to overseas coaches. Kolkata Knight Riders signed wicketkeeper K.S. Bharat and promising Mumbai opener Angkrish Raghuvanshi, both mentored by its assistant coach Abhishek Nayar, at base price.
Price correction backfires
One of the features of mini-auctions is to rectify high prices, especially for some Indian signings. The Rajasthan Royals successfully did it with Jaydev Unadkat in 2019 and 2020. After shelling out Rs. 11.50 crore for the left-arm pacer, the Royals released and re-signed him for each of the next two auctions for Rs. 8.40 crore and Rs. 3 crore, respectively.
However, two instances this time around showed that the price correction ploy tends to backfire on teams. The first instance was when Punjab Kings failed to reacquire Shahrukh Khan. Despite letting go of the Tamil Nadu power-hitter, who was signed for Rs. 9 crore in 2022, Punjab Kings chased him even after the Rs 7 crore mark.
But eventually, Gujarat Titans had the last laugh, buying him for Rs. 7.40 crore, at 82 per cent of his last year’s IPL fees.
The Titans were at the receiving end in the case of Yash Dayal. The left-arm pacer, bought at Rs. 3.20 crore in their debut IPL season in 2022, was released after suffering Rinku Singh’s wrath in IPL 2023.
Even though Titans went much higher in their quest to retain Dayal, Royal Challengers Bangalore had the last laugh at the Rs. 5 crore-mark.
The Rohit Sharma trade conspiracy theory
Ever since Hardik Pandya was officially unveiled as the Mumbai Indians captain, the rumour mill has been abuzz with Rohit’s possible trade to another team during the post-auction trading window that began on December 20.
That’s not happening? How? Sample this. Rohit’s official auction purse is Rs. 15 crore, although he has been officially paid Rs. 16 crore per season since 2022. No team has a remaining purse anywhere close to Rs. 15 crore.
Of the 10 franchises, Delhi Capitals has the highest purse remaining at Rs. 9.90 crore. But with the Capitals having already signed 25 cricketers—the maximum permissible squad size—the only way Rohit can be transferred is through a player swap. But that looks as distant a possibility as that of either Jasprit Bumrah or Suryakumar Yadav leaving MI for greener pastures.
As for Rohit playing under Hardik, Mumbai Indians head coach Mark Boucher stressed the decision was in sync with MI’s leadership transition policy. It looks as if Rohit will guide Hardik, the captain, in IPL 2024 and will hopefully carry his silken touch with the willow from the World Cup to the IPL.
What’s in a name? Ask Punjab Kings
When two cricketers with the same name enter the IPL auction, it leads to confusion. The same was witnessed during the auction when the auctioneer, Mallika Sagar, called out Player No. 237, Shashank Singh, the Mumbai all-rounder who has also represented Chhattisgarh in domestic cricket and Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, during the accelerated auction. PBKS co-owner Preity Zinta raised the paddle, and the player was sold at the base price.
PBKS quickly realised that the Shashank Singh on its radar was Player No. 175, the Punjab big-hitter. However, once the hammer had come down, the allrounder, Shashank, could not be withdrawn. A day later, PBKS issued a statement stressing it wanted to opt for the same Shashank Singh it bid for. The expressions on the PBKS table during the auction, though, suggested otherwise.