The defeat on Tuesday in the Twenty20 International against Sri Lanka brought the Indian players down to earth after the auction euphoria of the Indian Premier League (IPL) barely two days before the game.
None of the new-found IPL millionaires was playing at Pune, though the highest-paid Indian, Pawan Negi, was in the squad. Nor, for that matter, was half the Sri Lankan team good enough for the franchises of the highly popular Twenty20 pro league.
Dominated by the IPL rejects — Secuge Prasanna, Dasun Shanaka, Milinda Siriwardana, Dishamantha Chameera and Sanchitha Senanayake – the islanders nearly bowled the Indians out for less than a hundred before coasting to a five-wicket victory.
The Sri Lankans can raise the inevitable question, what credentials are required to get into an IPL team?
Is a good domestic season enough to get the IPL ticket? Or, is the auction windfall truly a lottery? How does a promising overseas player get in?
The answer is a bit of luck is essential in getting into the mix of a franchise think-tank. At the end of it all, the teams will have to get the right blend of Indian and overseas players.
If the route to getting into the India side is via the IPL, an India cap can also make one a millionaire as it has happened with Pawan Negi. Negi is seen as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s choice for the Asia Cup and the World Twenty20. That’s the break he badly needed and a couple of days later he became the highest paid Indian at the auction, though Negi’s promise is unquestioned.
Yet, some IPL choices are inconceivable as they defy commonsense and cricketing logic. In an auction where players pitch their base price at Rs.2 crore and Rs.1 crore, do not get sold whereas the ones pricing modestly at less than 10 lakh, become millionaires overnight!
To pick the best from a bunch of 351 players going under the hammer is clearly a jugglery for the franchises to get the best buy for the money at their disposal. Imagine only 94 could be accommodated by the eight franchises. Things should improve for players once Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals return to the fold to possibly make it a ten-team format after serving their two-year suspension for marring the spirit of the sport.
The unsold players can easily field not one but two teams to challenge the IPL teams. George Bailey, Martin Guptill, Usman Khawaja, Hashim Amla, Tilekeratne Dilshan, Mike Hussey, Adam Voges, Brad Haddin, Darren Sammy, Lahiru Thirimanne, Cameron White, Marlon Samuels, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Nuwan Kulasekera, Manvinder Bisla, Grant Elliot, to name the more popular and acknowledged Twenty20 gypsies, might have expected to be in the league.
Bailey, Dilshan, Sammy, Hussey and Bisla not finding place is a little puzzling considering that they have been match-winners not long ago. Sammy and Hussey are actively involved with the global Twenty20 circuit.
The only explanation could be as overseas professionals, it would be difficult to accommodate them in the playing eleven. But then someone like Hussey could be of immense value as coach or adviser like Ricky Ponting for Mumbai Indians, Jacques Kallis for Kolkata Knight Riders and Stephen Fleming for CSK. Bailey, who had taken the Kings XI Punjab to the final two years ago was dumped after the team’s poor showing last year.
A big shock was Aaron Finch, an acknowledged T20 specialist, scraping through as a last-minute after thought buy.
Domestic cricketers can look forward to becoming millionaires as uncapped players had a great auction. Karnataka batsman Karun Nair (Rs.4 crore), Rajasthan fast bowler Nathu Singh (Rs.3.2 crore), Baroda all-rounder Deepak Hooda (4.2 crore) and Tamil Nadu leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin (Rs4.5 crore) barged in on a day when there were no takers for Test left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha after doubts were expressed over his bowling action, though he has been cleared.
As the debate rages over the veracity of some of the players getting such huge amounts, the argument in their favour is a fair number of them got in on the strength of their performances on the domestic circuit. Franchise coaches/advisers short-listed them.
The most successful Indian batsman at the ongoing Under-19 World Cup Rishab Pant, the team’s captain Ishan Kishan and all-rounder Mahipal Lomror went through the auction taking impressive pay packets to open the doors for the other teenagers.
Most of the teams had a clear idea about their playing eleven, particularly which four overseas players can get in. That’s a lot of home work, even if you don’t agree with their calculation.
For instance, Royal Challengers will have little maneuverability as their four overseas players are Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, AB De Villiers and Mitchell Starc. Of course, Watson is there as an all-rounder. Interestingly, they were keen on regaining Yuvraj Singh but Sunrisers Hyderabad snatched him.
Gujarat Lions, too have a problem as their overseas list include Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Kevin Pietersen, Aaron Finch and Dwayne Bravo and so have Kolkata Knight Riders who have Morne Morkel, John Hastings, Jason Holder and Andre Russell and Shakib Al Hasan.
If the Lions have to choose between opening batsmen Finch and Smith, Kolkata will have to pick either Hastings or Holder. The other teams will also have hiccups in selecting their eleven to start with and it is to be seen who grabs the opportunity.
At the end of it all, the excitement is to see which teams got their computation right. That will be known when the players get into the field.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])