IPL 14 is less than a week away. And it has been barely four months to the last edition in Dubai. So nothing much has really changed. Yes, the League is back to home shores despite the surge in domestic Covid numbers; but the same number of teams are playing in IPL 14 (earlier there were plans to up the number to 10, but that decision was wisely postponed to take effect from IPL 15); almost the same players will be seen in action; most likely no spectators to start with will be allowed into the stadia and all the games will be played only at a restricted number of venues in a tight bio-bubble.
As much as everything remains largely the same, there is still some change. Well, to start with, Vivo is back as the title sponsor. Dream 11 got their window for heightened exposure at half the price last year but the original sponsor Vivo is now back with the anti-China sentiment having receded a few notches.
The ‘released’ players were announced on 20 January. Steve Smith, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell were the prominent names on the released list. Sheldron Cotrell, Chris Morris and Dale Steyn were all told that they needed to find new homes. Piyush Chawla, the costliest Indian player at the 2020 auction, was also released by CSK, who also put the ageing Harbhajan Singh and Kedar Jadhav to pasture. Amongst the other big names, Mumbai Indians released Nathan Coulter-Nile who had been bought the previous year for Rs. 8 crore. Umesh Yadav was also let go by RCB.
At the players' auction held later in Chennai, a total of 1097 players initially registered their interest in being picked up, of which 292 were selected for the auction, including 125 overseas players and three players from associate nations. Chris Morris was the most expensive player, purchased by the Rajasthan Royals for Rs.16.25 crore. The most expensive Indian player sold was Krishnappa Gowtham purchased by the Chennai Super Kings for Rs. 9.25 crore. Moeen Ali at Rs. 7 crore was a prize catch for RCB.
Umesh Yadav’s value in the auction plummeted to just Rs. one crore. He was bought by Delhi. And the once celebrated Piyush Chawla took a major pay cut to Rs. 2.4 crore, when bought by MI. Kedar Jadhav too went for just Rs. 2 crore, down from Rs. 7.8 crore last year. Punkab though bought uncapped all-rounder Shahrukh Khan for Rs. 5.25 crore, which looked a bit much against his reserve price of just Rs. 20 lacs. Rajasthan too invested Rs. 1.2 crore in new fast bowler Chetan Sakariya. Even Cheteshwar Pujara had CSK raising the paddle at Rs. 50 lacs for the Test specialist. Riley Meredith bought by Punjab for Rs. 8 crore did raise some eyebrows. Kyle Jameson went for a whopping Rs. 15 crore to RCB.
Then in March, Royal Challengers Bangalore replaced Josh Philippe with Finn Allen, after the former pulled out of the tournament due to personal reasons. The Delhi Capitals, later in the month, confirmed that their captain Shreyas Iyer had been ruled out of the tournament due to a shoulder injury. Rishabh Pant was named the new Delhi captain. Hyderabad's Mitchell Marsh too pulled out of the tournament due to personal reasons; he was replaced by Jason Roy in the Sunrisers' squad. Chennai's Josh Hazlewood opted out of the tournament citing personal reasons too. Personal reasons? Well no greater explanations were offered.
Of the retained players, most are pretty well paid. CSK’s top brass make a lot of money: MS Dhoni (Rs. 15 crore), Suresh Raina (Rs. 11 crore), Ravindra Jadeja (rs. 7 crore), Dwayne Bravo (Rs. 6.4 crore), Sam Curran (Rs. 5.5 crore) and even Karn Sharma (Rs. 5 crore). In Delhi, Rishab Pant (Rs. 8 crore), Shimron Hetmyer (Rs. 7.75 crore), R Ashwin (Rs. 7.6 crore), Ajinkya Rahane (Rs. 5.25 crore) and Shikhar Dhawan (Rs. 5.2 crore) are the high-earners. Pat Cummins at Rs. 15.5 crore and Sunil Narine at Rs. 8.5 crore lead on the wage bill at Kolkatta Knight Riders. Rohit Sharma takes home Rs. 15 crore from the Ambani owned MI. The Pandya brothers, Hardik (11) and Krunal (8.8) cost Rs. 19.8 crore between them. Ishan Kishan at Rs. 6.2 crore is also not exactly cheap. Punkab pay KL Rahul Rs. 11 crore. And Rs. 4.8 crore to Mohd Shami. To Rajasthan, Ben Stokes costs Rs. 12.5 crore; Sanju Samson Rs. 8 crore and Jofra Archer Rs. 7.2 crore. Virat Kohli pockets Rs. 17 crore from Bangalore and AB de Villiers Rs. 11 crore. David Warner at Rs. 12 crore is only a notch more expensive than Manish Pandey at Rs. 11 crore. So the IPL is a rich League where the stalwarts get most times Rs. 1 crore or more per match whether they score or they don’t score! But none of this is new … largely status quo.
One does hope that the status quo will be disrupted … by fat cat players who will hit real big to justify their enormous purses, and by the hungry new cheetahs who can use the IPL to ferret their way into the India team. No longer do the Ranji and Vizzy trophy numbers count: one good IPL is all that you really need to get the selectors to notice you and to give you the nod.
Dr. Sandeep Goyal has been 37 years in the advertising and media business; but his love affair with cricket started almost 50 years ago.