February 20, 2008

IPL- The Best Thing To Happen To Professional Cricket?

It has exactly been a month since I posted my last post and it is rather obvious that I have something quite important to write about. Many cricketing events have taken place in the past month with the last test in the Border- Gavaskar Trophy, the commencement of the Commonwealth Bank tri-series featuring India, Australia and Sri Lanka, the beginning of England’s tour of New Zealand, the South Africa- West Indies ODI series (which was South African all-rounder Shaun Pollock’s last ODI series, one which South Africa won 5-0 with Pollock hitting the winning runs in the final match). Towards the end of January we also had the awarding of the franchises in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the BCCI’s answer to the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL). Unlike the ICL, the IPL will have ICC backing. The IPL is what I am going to write about today as the auctioning of players took place earlier today.

When the ICL was launched by Subhash Chandra of the Zee Group, it sparked a big debate about the corporatization of cricket like how Kerry Packer had done in the late 1980s with the Word Series of Cricket. The BCCI was quick to label the ICL as a rebel league and disallowed its players to take part in the league, those doing so would permanently lose their place in their Ranji (domestic circuit) teams and as a result wouldn’t be considered for selection for the national team. The BCCI also took another step ahead by not allowing the ICL matches to be played on its grounds. This was seen by many cricket enthusiasts and experts as a very immature decision by the BCCI to maintain its monopoly in Indian cricket. The ICL has till date snapped up many prominent international players like Brian Lara, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Lance Klusener, Imran Farhat, Chris Cairns, Daryl Tuffey, Craig McMillan and more recently, Shane Bond. The Zee Group appointed Indian cricket legend Kapil Dev as the head of the ICL’s organizing committee and the BCCI was quick in disowning him.

The ICL was turning out to be a big draw for players with its big money and the lure was simply irresistible. The BCCI had to come out with a masterstroke to halt the ICL in its tracks, and it did just that. It announced the IPL, an event similar in format to the ICL, but much bigger. With the ICC backing the IPL, it was bad news for the ICL as all the cricket boards of various nations aligned with the BCCI and disallowed their players from joining the ICL. The ICL’s first tournament was still a success and it was the Chennai Superstars which won the tournament which was basically a Twenty20 tournament.

Like the ICL, the IPL also follows the Twenty20 format and has 8 city based franchise teams- Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mohali and Mumbai. The bidding for the teams was done on January 24. The auction to pick the owners fetched the IPL US$723.59 million, almost double the combined base price of US$400 million. Mumbai was the most expensive team, costing over US$111.9 million. The owners are a mix of the biggest names in business and the Indian Film Industry, popularly known as Bollywood.

The franchise owners are as follows with the winning bids are given in brackets-
  • Bangalore- Vijay Mallya’s UB Group (US$ 111.6 million)
  • Chennai- India Cements (US$ 91 million)
  • Delhi- GMR Group (US$ 84 million)
  • Hyderabad- Deccan Chronicle (US$ 107 million)
  • Jaipur- Emerging Media- led consortium (US$ 67 million)
  • Kolkata- Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment (US$ 75.09 million)
  • Mohali- Preity Zinta, Ness Wadia, Karan Paul and Dabur's Mohit Burman (US$ 76 million)
  • Mumbai- Mukesh Ambani's Reliance India Limited (US$ 111.9 million)
The BCCI has already made close to US$ 1.75 billion solely from the sale of TV rights ($908 million), promotion ($108 million) and franchises (approximately $700 million). Players are expected to earn close to US$1 million for a three-year contract. With such big names and big money involved, the IPL is clearly the future of cricket.

Basically, the IPL is the idea of Lalit Modi, the vice-president of the BCCI, and is modeled along the lines of club football in Europe, specifically the English Premier League. He has been appointed the convenor of the IPL. The league will be run by a governing council comprising former Indian captains Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavaskar, M.A.K. Pataudi, BCCI office-bearers Rajiv Shukla and Chirayu Amin, Inderjit Singh Bindra, the Punjab Cricket Association president, and Arun Jaitley, the president of the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association.

When I put the TV on this afternoon, all the news channels were streaming live reports about the ICL auctions. I have given the rules of the auction below-
  1. An open auction, with each franchise allowed to bid any number of times for a player. Each franchise should spend a minimum of $3.3 million, but not more than $5 million.
  2. The bid starts with the annual "base player fee" that has already been fixed by the IPL. This base player fee assumes that the player is available for the entire tournament. This fee will be adjusted on a pro-rata basis, depending on the players' availability.
  3. The players will be divided into "sets" of approximately 12 each, according to their base player fee, cricketing speciality and expected availability for the opening season. But the bids will start with a set of marquee players like Gilchrist, Dhoni, Ricky Ponting and Chris Gayle. A random draw will decide the order in which players go up on the block.
  4. One designated bidder from each franchise will raise a paddle to indicate a bid, with the bid representing the fee per season to be paid by the franchise to the player.
  5. No bid can be withdrawn.
  6. Bid increments have been fixed at $5000 for bids up to $100,000, $10,000 for bids between $100,000 and $250,000, and $25,000 for bids between $250,000 and $500,000. Increments over the $500,000 mark will be at the auctioneer's discretion.
Other crucial details include-
  1. The minimum "percentage availability" for any player included in the auction will be 25 per cent. Thus, even if a player is expected to be either completely unavailable or only available for less than four of the DLF IPL matches in 2008, 25 per cent of the player fee bid for that player in the auction will count against the $5 million purse. For example, the purchase for $400,000 of a player who is expected to be completely unavailable in 2008 will cause a deduction of $100,000 from the franchise's overall $5 million purse.
  2. If more than one franchise is interested in signing a particular foreign player from outside the current pool, the IPL's organisers will hold another auction. But Indian players who are not in the pool can be signed at any time.
  3. Each franchise can only have up to a maximum of two centrally-contracted Australian players in its squad and/or up to a maximum of two Australian players from each state association.
The auction was conducted by veteran auctioneer Richard Madley, the "open bidding" took place behind closed doors inside the Regal Room at the Hilton Towers in Mumbai. About six representatives from each of the eight teams were seated around separate tables with computer screens to track the action. The drama built by this was obviously intense. The auction lasted for around 12 hours.

The bidding took place from a pool of 79 cricketers from around the world which included top current players like Dhoni, Ponting, Gilchrist, Shoaib Akhtar, Jayawardene, Jayasuriya, Yuvraj, Hayden and many more. Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag were not up for auction as they have been given 'iconic' status by the BCCI - which means that they have to represent the city in which they are based which are Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Mohali and Delhi respectively and they will get 15% more than the next best player in their team. 77 of the 79 players were sold at the base price or above. Mohd. Yousuf of Pakistan and South Africa’s Ashwell Prince were the only players who were withdrawn. The English players weren’t available as the IPL would clash with their domestic season. Aussies Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson have backed out as they want to concentrate more on their international careers.

In the first round of bidding, Indian ODI and Twenty20 captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was bought for a whopping US$1.5 million by the Chennai franchise who also snapped up Sri Lankan spin ace Muttiah Muralitharan for US$600,000. Other players picked in round 1 are Adam Gilchrist has gone to Hyderabad for US$700,000, Mahela Jayawardene to Mohali for US$475,000, Shane Warne to Jaipur for US$450,000 and Shoaib Akhtar to Kolkata for US$425,000.

It is absolutely pointless writing about each round in detail as I am sick of typing. So given below are the teams at the end of the bidding process with the price for which the player was bought being given in brackets-
  1. Bangalore: Rahul Dravid (Icon), Anil Kumble (US$500,000), Jacques Kallis (US$900,000), Zaheer Khan (US$450,000), Mark Boucher (US$450,000), Cameron White (US$500,000), Wasim Jaffer (US$150,000), Dale Steyn (US$325,000), Nathan Bracken (US$325,000), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (US$200,000)
  2. Chennai: MS Dhoni (US$1.5 million), Muttiah Muralitharan (US$600,000), Matthew Hayden (US$375,000), Jacob Oram (US$675,000), Stephen Fleming (US$350,000), Parthiv Patel (US$325,000), Joginder Sharma (US$225,000), Albie Morkel (US$675,000), Suresh Raina (US$650,000), Makhaya Ntini (US$200,000), Michael Hussey (US$350,000)
  3. Delhi: Virender Sehwag (Icon), Daniel Vettori (US$625,000), Shoaib Malik (US$500,000), Mohammad Asif (US$650,000), AB de Villiers (US$300,000), Dinesh Karthik (US$525,000), Farveez Maharoof (US$225,000), Tillakaratne Dilshan (US$250,000), Manoj Tiwary (US$675,000), Gautam Gambhir (US$725,000), Glenn McGrath (US$350,000)
  4. Hyderabad: Adam Gilchrist (US$700,000), Andrew Symonds (US$1.35 million), Herschelle Gibbs (US$575,000), Shahid Afridi (US$675,000), Scott Styris (US$175,000), VVS Laxman (US$375,000), Rohit Sharma (US$750,000), Chamara Silva (US$100,000), RP Singh (US$875,000), Chaminda Vaas (US$200,000), Nuwan Zoysa (US$110,000)
  5. Jaipur: Shane Warne (US$450,000), Graeme Smith (US$475,000), Younis Khan (US$225,000), Kamran Akmal (US$150,000), Yusuf Pathan (US$475,000), Mohammad Kaif (US$675,000), Munaf Patel (US$275,000), Justin Langer (US$200,000)
  6. Kolkata: Sourav Ganguly (Icon), Shoaib Akhtar (US$425,000), Ricky Ponting (US$400,000), Brendon McCullum (US$700,000), Chris Gayle (US$800,000), Ajit Agarkar (US$330,000), David Hussey (US$675,000), Ishant Sharma (US$950,000), Murali Kartik (US$425,000), Umar Gul (US$150,000), Tatenda Taibu (US$125,000)
  7. Mohali: Yuvraj Singh (Icon), Mahela Jayawardene (US$475,000), Kumar Sangakkara (US$700,000), Brett Lee (US$900,000), Sreesanth (US$625,000), Irfan Pathan (US$925,000), Ramesh Powar (US$170,000), Piyush Chawla (US$400,000), Simon Katich (US$200,000), Ramnaresh Sarwan (US$225,000)
  8. Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar (Icon), Sanath Jayasuriya (US$975,000), Harbhajan Singh (US$850,000), Shaun Pollock (US$550,000), Robin Uthappa (US$800,000), Lasith Malinga (US$350,000), Dilhara Fernando (US$150,000), Loots Bosman (US$175,000)
At the end of the day 6 players would be getting US$ 1 million or more, the players being Dhoni and Symonds (by virtue of the bid) and Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and Yuvraj (by virtue if being the Icon player for their franchise and thus getting 115% of the next highest earner in their franchise i.e. Sanath Jayasurya, Ishant Sharma, Jacques Kallis and Irfan Pathan respectively) Ponting and Hayden probably sold for less because of Australia’s tour of Pakistan around the same time this year. Their buyers have devised a wonderful strategy with regard to finances. If Ponting and Hayden play in Pakistan, then they will get just 25% of their IPL salary and if they take part in the IPL they anyway have a lesser cost. Symonds probably sold for much higher as his going to Pakistan was in doubt, with him having decided to skip the tour citing security reasons.

Coming to the team composition, I personally feel that Hyderabad and Kolkata have the most balanced sides followed by Chennai, Mohali and Mumbai. The Bangalore and Jaipur teams are quite impressive too. The Delhi team is a little disappointing as I expected more from it.

If you look at the players, Mohali stands out if you look at the Twenty20 aspect with batsmen like Yuvraj, Jayawardene, Sangakarra and Sarwan; and bowlers like Sreesanth, Brett Lee and Irfan Pathan. Pathan can also double up as an all-rounder which is an added advantage, Lee can bat too. Hyderabad too is good side with hitters like Gilchrist, Gibbs, Symonds and Afridi. Laxman can provide the depth in the batting with his immense experience and skill. R.P. Singh and Chaminda Vaas are excellent bowlers and would do a world of good to the Hyderabad franchise.

Another interesting aspect will be the opening batsmen for the teams. I expect Tendulkar and Jayasurya to open for Mumbai, they had once opened for Asia XI in a match against the Rest of the World XI in 2000 and had put on a decent opening partnership. Hyderabad will most probably go in with Gilchrist and Gibbs who are both very hard hitting batsmen. Kolkata may have Ganguly and Gayle opening the batting, Gayle is the only player to have scored a century in an international Twenty20 and Ganguly is one of the most elegant players the world has ever seen. Chennai should open with Hayden and Fleming, Jaipur with Graeme Smith and Kamran Akmal or maybe even Langer or Yusuf Pathan (he had opened the batting for India in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 with Gambhir); and Delhi should use Sehwag and Gambhir or De Villiers. Bangalore should open with Dravid and Jaffer and Mohali with Simon Katich and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

The IPL will begin on April 18, when Bangalore takes on Kolkata at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. The tournament will feature 59 matches in total, the teams playing each other on a home and away basis and will conclude on June 1. Now, all that remains to be seen is how the IPL fairs. Will it change the world of Cricket in a big way? Will the format be accepted world over? These are few of the questions that can only be answered when the tournament gets underway. Till then, one can only hope for the best.

1 comment:

Neha said...

can these people postpone the IPL... I hav mah xams 4 crying out loud!!!!!