The Indian Premier League (IPL) has seen 14 seasons so far and the teams understand that a season's auction is more uncertain than cricket itself.
Despite the teams' due diligence, number crunching, data analytics, and the help from pundits, auction googlies can at times leave you stumped. Such is its treacherous nature that one can buy a motorbike, while thinking it is a Mercedes.
Auctions are like old Hindi films which have action, thrill, excitement, and suspense as the paddle goes up and the hammer comes down. Also, raw emotion of uplifting success and career breaking rejection.
Action Before Bengaluru – Preparation and Training
Auction prep started much before the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the dates for this year's auction. Scouts gathered player intelligence from overseas leagues and in India, the Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare tournaments were closely tracked. Later, teams held trials inviting players to audition.
Nowadays, closer to the D-day, auction action has shifted to corporate boardrooms with teams preparing a category-wise shortlist and attaching price tags on players they want.
Looking ahead at this time's auction, one team insider said that this was an 'exam time' but they were ready having revised the course, taken tuitions and conducted mock auctions. The player list of 300 potential players is pruned to 50 that form the final wish list.
The IPL needs a total of about 250 players a season, and the 10 teams had a total of Rs 900 crore to play around with, at the start. But after the retentions saw 33 players selected by the franchises, only 217 slots are now open this weekend with Rs 556 crore on the table.
Now that all preparations have been done, here are some things to look out for at the auction:
Big Payday for Indians
Indian talent will be expensive at the 2022 IPL auction because demand exceeds supply. The IPL needs 170 Indian players (17 in each squad x 10 teams), of which 70 must feature in the playing eleven. In the 590 players going under the hammer, there are 61 capped Indians and 143 uncapped Indians who have featured in the earlier IPLs.
The shortage of quality players ensures that the market for Indian talent remains heated. Shahrukh could be a surprise blockbuster hit along with KS Bharat. And, with teams looking for Indian captains, Shreyas Iyer will surely smile this weekend.
Focus on Youth
India’s youngistan is very likely to emerge a happy lot because, like in the stock market, teams will want to buy ahead of the curve, before prices go up.
Young Under-19 stars will attract strong interest because teams have one eye on the future. As players are contracted for three years they can trade valuable assets, and benefit from the commercial upside.
Some Seniors May Suffer Setbacks
Senior Indian players are likely to get a rude jhatka at this IPL auction, with teams likely to build looking at the future and focus more on next-generation stars.
Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra, and Manish Pandey – most of whom are slotted in the Rs crore base price bracket – have had long innings in the IPL but their best is behind them. Expect serious market correction for them. Such price levelling has happened in the past with Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, and Gautam Gambhir.
Foreign Stars May Not Attract Biggest Bids
Unlike what we have seen in the last few auctions where foreign stars have made big paydays like Chris Morris being bought by Rajasthan for Rs 16.25 crore and Kyle Jamieson being picked up by Bangalore for Rs 15 crore in 2021, the 2022 auction may not see the overseas players breaking the bank.
The response for foreign players is likely to be thanda because teams are spoilt for choice and for every slot, multiple options are available. Still, it will be interesting to see where the big boys – David Warner, Steve Smith and Pat Cummins – end up.
The high-value categories at such an auction are the multiskilled all-rounders, finishers, mystery spinners, and the pace bowlers who hit the speed gun consistently at 140.
So, Quinton de Cock and Kagiso Rabada will be on the radar of multiple teams.
Likely surprises: Jason Roy, Tim David, Harry Brook, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Jamieson, and Marco Jensen. There is also young Afghan player Noor Ahmad, only 17, but he has already been part of the Caribbean Premier League, Big Bash League, and Pakistan Super League.
Big Splurges Unlikely
All that talk of what's likely to happen in Bengaluru this weekend, but here's one thing that won't happen.
Teams are smart about prices, having learnt that investment must satisfy the ‘value for money’ test. Therefore, splurging Rs 16.25 crore on Chris Morris or Rs 9.25 crore on Gowtham – the overpriced spinner who did not get a single game last year at Chennai Super Kings – is not a good idea.
What Is Going To Happen
Still, there will be crazy bidding wars and ROI (return on investment)-defying prices for ‘must have’ players on the shopping list. This business of chasing certain players ‘at all cost’ is extremely tricky because the auction dynamics can suck you into a bidding war, which disrupt all plans.
Ultimately, it boils down to one team’s desperation versus someone else’s desperation.
Role of Team Owners
Decision-making is largely driven by the coaching staff and data analysts, but professional judgement can be set aside by an assertive team owner.
Armed with personal knowledge and influenced by their child's preference or the opinion of their personal staff, an owner could decide to put their foot down.
By virtue of their job title, team owners hold a veto power because ultimately, they write the cheque and support staff know it doesn’t pay to quarrel with the boss.
Teams Likely To Go All-Out
Each team was allowed to spend a maximum of Rs 90 crore on players this season and with Rs 338 crore already spent by the 10 franchises in retaining a total of 33 players, there's Rs 556 to be spent this weekend.
The auction bidding is impacted by the general mood of buoyancy in the IPL. In year 15, IPL teams are profitable, the balance sheets are positive, and owners are in a happy space.
Plus they expect a booster dose of cash from the sale of the next cycle of media rights after this season. In this achhe din scenario, teams won’t hold back and use most of their auction purse.
Players on good wicket: Yuzi Chahal, Shami, Prasidh Krishna, Shikhar Dhawan, Deepak Hooda, Shardul Thakur, Avesh Khan, Krunal Pandya, Rahul Chahar, Deepak Chahar, Washington Sunder, Devdutt Padikkal, Kuldeep Yadav.
On tricky wicket: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Priyam Garg, Kamlesh Nagarkotti, Shivam Mavi, Karthik Tyagi, Rahul Tewatia
Likely shockers: R Ashwin, Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma