February 11, 2022: The auction for the 15th edition of the Indian Premier League will take place on February 12 and 13, 2022. The addition of two more teams will, therefore, see 10 teams in the fray. This could lead to 50 more players in the league. Every Indian cricketer, at present, wishes to be a part of the league, as the IPL tournament has become an important platform for one to get recognised. Success in it could lead to a player achieving his dream of getting an India cap.
The auction will, therefore, be followed with bated breath by cricketers who are up for grabs from all across the globe. The IPL has been an enormous boon to cricketers. It has given them wealth in every conceivable way. One equates it at times only with financial gains but the real value to a cricketer has been the wealth of experience and cricket-related knowledge because of the diversity that it provides. Rubbing shoulders with champion players from every cricket-playing country in the world and with top, qualified professionals as support staff and coaches is wonderful for them.
Everything seems to be going well for the BCCI as regards the IPL. The valuation of the tournament has increased substantially and one expects the media and television rights to do so too when it comes up for renewal. The IPL seems to be on an upward swing but one worries as to whether it can continue to do so in the future as well.
The problem that one can foresee is of the mushrooming of similar leagues in the other cricketing nations of the world. A super-star cricketer now has the option to play elsewhere in leagues that may suit one’s personal and professional commitments. Apart from this, countries have their own national and international cricket schedules. This is becoming a problematic issue as many of the top International players are unavailable for the complete tenure of the IPL tournament. This makes it difficult for franchise owners of their foreign recruits. They may have eight foreign Internationals in their squad but the value and skill they bring to the team could be totally different.
One can feel that many of the top International stars are gradually opting out of playing in the IPL. This is one area that needs to be looked into seriously by the BCCI, as without them the IPL may flounder into an Indian domestic affair with foreign players available in quantity but not in quality.
The English Cricket County Championship is a good example. Every cricketer worth his salt in the past wanted to be a part of it. The Championship attracted the best of players and the quality of cricket was very high. Some teams were even better than most International sides. The Counties flourished and cricket in England was at its peak. Unfortunately, the English cricket side’s performance went down a slippery slope and severe restrictions were put to discourage foreign players. The County cricket standard suffered and the quality of cricket dwindled drastically. English cricket did not benefit at all and a young English cricketer today has missed out on playing with or learning from the star cricketers from other countries.
The IPL will need to ensure that it attracts the best cricketers to participate in it. A clear two-month time slot should be allotted by the ICC to conduct it. The BCCI needs to push this more forcefully.
The success of the IPL is not entirely appreciated by one and all in the cricket fraternity. Therefore, the worry is that some may put road blocks to slow down its progress. This seems quite evident from the way the availability of the foreign players’ participation in the upcoming 2022 edition of the league. A note of caution is always something to ponder upon.
The 2022 auction should be an interesting affair. One gathers that this may be the last of a full-fledged auction and that a new format of selecting players is likely to be introduced, hereafter.
The past auctions have led one to believe that the price of a player seems to be like a lottery. The franchisees, one gathers, do plenty of preparation identifying players according to their plans and on many occasions, it goes awry and players get sold for a value far higher than what they deserve. The concern that most franchise owners have is in selecting the “fillers”. These are players who make up the squad and could be played in the final eleven, if required. These are also the players whom the franchise hopes will succeed for them and ones who could give them that extra edge.
The majority of these players are Indian domestic cricketers. All the 14 previous tournaments have shown that the success of a team realise heavily on how these filler cricketers perform. This is a gamble that franchise owners take during the auction and the bidding at times goes completely haywire in getting that player.
The auction should be interesting, as one wonders as to how, Chris Morris, who was bought for a record sum of Rs. 16.25 crore by Rajasthan Royals last year, was not retained by them this year.
It shows how uncertain and obscure the players’ valuation game is. The IPL auction reminds one of the IPOs that were recently launched. The game, as they say, is one of “Valuation”.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)