Fear has been the key at the IPL all week. The IPL 2021 is going through a challenging time as players are withdrawing from the league due to the coronavirus scare. There have been some injuries too but it is mainly the virus that has kept everyone on tenterhooks, be it the infection, be it the bio-bubble fatigue or be it the fear of being shut out of home countries because of flight curtailments – the Covid overhang has taken a serious toll of the League already.
As of this week, we have seen the exits of overseas players Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Phillipe, Kane Richardson, Liam Livingstone, Mark Wood, Mitchell Marsh, and of the Indian spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin. That is not all. Some players also have their national duty to attend to and will have to depart early to follow isolation protocols. Kane Williamson and Trent Boult are expected to leave early, maybe mid-May, as New Zealand have a Test series against England starting from June 2.
Umpires Nitin Menon and Paul Reiffel too have left the IPL. Menon due to immediate family members testing positive for Covid-19, and Reiffel is trying to get out of India before Australia shuts all incoming flights and imposes a travel ban from India.
Apparently, the 40-strong Australian contingent at the IPL is the most restless. Some are feeling suffocated in the bio-bubble; most others fear that they may get stranded in India for months. A major dampener has been the response of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said there would be no special arrangements to bring back the cricketers currently in India taking part in the Indian Premier League 2021. The PM’s statement came after Australia batsman Chris Lynn, who represents the Mumbai Indians in the IPL, had requested for a chartered flight for the cricketers to return home after the 14th edition of the tournament gets over.
In parallel, the IPL has in this past week run into a maelstrom: with serious questions being raised on why a game of cricket needs to be put on a pedestal when metres away from the stadia citizens are dying because of a lack of medical help and dearth of oxygen. To many on social media, and to millions not on it, the IPL perhaps symbolizes selfishness, indifference and a lack of empathy for the general citizenry. Many on Twitter have been quoting the Bob Dylan song, “How many deaths will it take till they know that too many people have died?”. Against the millions getting infected every week, the high-pitched commentary, the lofted sixes and the pampered players earning lakhs for every run scored, are fanning resentment and animosity. It is not a good sign. Somehow with so much of death, pain and suffering all around, the entire IPL looks a greedy and grotesque extravaganza.
Some of the angst against the IPL may have got softened if the players and franchises, the BCCI and the broadcaster, had all been seen to be a bit more compassionate and empathetic to the common man’s suffering. Pat Cummins, the Australian all-rounder, stood up to be counted as a big-hearted cricketer by writing a US$50,000 cheque to the PM Cares Fund to help buy oxygen for India’s over-stretched hospitals. Rajasthan Royals too announced a contribution of Rs 7.5 crore to help those impacted by Covid -19 which was pretty generous. Delhi Capitals opened the purse for a meager Rs. 1.5 crore. And Sachin Tendulkar raised his hand for a crore in donation. But highly paid Indian stars (IPL salary in brackets) kept their cheque books securely sealed : Virat Kohli (Rs. 17 crore), MS Dhoni (Rs. 15 crore), Rohit Sharma (Rs. 15 crore), Manish Pandey (Rs. 11 crore), KL Rahul (Rs. 11 crore) and Hardik Pandya (Rs. 11 crore) besides others. That added a more mercenary sting to the debate.
Any case, back to cricket. I have been fascinated by the Paisa Vasool Index (PVI) being put out by some statisticians. PVI is calculated by dividing the player's cumulative US$ earning from the League by the player’s cumulative MVPI (Most Valuable Player Index); the lower the PVI, the more value for money or paisa vasool the player is. Harshal Patel with PVI of 36 is by far the most paisa vasool player of IPL 2021 currently. With an IPL salary of just Rs. 20 lakhs (Pat Cummins is paid Rs. 15.5 crore), he has already bagged 17 wickets (compared to 9 wickets for Cummins) so far and has monopolised the purple cap to date. Batsman Devdutt Paddikal has a PVI of 53. He too was picked for just Rs. 20 lacs. In five matches so far his 188 runs have made for an incredibly good paisa vasool. Prasidh Krishna and Arshdeep Singh are at a PVI of 77. Krishna bought for Rs. 20 lacs has bagged 8 wickets in 7 matches; Arshdeep also bought for Rs. 20 lacs has got 7 wickets so far. Chetan Sakariya who was picked up for Rs. 1.2 crore has got 7 wickets from 6 matches and clocks a PVI of 69.
In contrast, how do the superstars stack up? Rohit Sharma has a PVI of 4351, yes you read it right! Virat Kohli, hold your breath is at 5584; Rishabh Pant 5096; Jasprit Bumrah 2498; KL Rahul 2897; Pat Cummins 4436, Chris Morris 3381, Andre Russel 2249, Rashid Khan 2210, AB de Villiers 3031 … even the super performer of the last week Ravindra Jadeja is a not-so-impressive 1046.
What it really means is that the under-paid and under-rated Harshal Patel is 150 times a better buy for his franchise than the doyen Virat Kohli is for his. Or that Paddikal is a 90 times better buy than Rohit Sharma. One could of course argue that the broadcasting dollars come from viewers wanting to see Kohli not Harshal. Which really is both unfair and sad. But then isn’t that true of life itself?!
Dr. Sandeep Goyal loves his cricket but he loves the statistics of the game too.