A medieval practice: the anomalies of the IPL auction
Ponting had success as a coach - but not as a player at the Indian Premier League
Ricky Ponting was a big failure in the inaugural Indian Premier League. Regarded as one of the best batsmen in the world at that juncture, the Australian captain scored a measly 39 runs in four matches for the Kolkata Knight Riders before departing mid-season.
But Ponting might have been demoralized even before the tournament began. The classy right-handed batsman was picked up by KKR for a pittance, whereas teammates such as Andrew Symonds and David Hussey fetched the big moolah at the inaugural IPL auction.
Former South Africa captain Ashwell Prince, regarded as a Test specialist, was also given a raw deal during the infamous auctions.
Years have passed but the trend continues. England captain Joe Root, a proven champion with the bat across all formats, went unsold at the latest edition of the auction, even as rookie English fast bowler Mark Wood found a place in the Chennai Super Kings' squad.
Clearly, the IPL auction has established a reputation of humiliating class and talent in its mercenary quest for success. The franchises tend to go after the players they perceive will bring them quick success and some branding bragging rights, true to the overly commercialised nature of the league.
Now, finally, tongues have started wagging against this morally ambiguous process. The New Zealand Cricket Players Association has called it an archaic process and requested that it be abolished.
They believe that the players in the auction are paraded like cattle and is an unbecoming and unwelcome way to acquire professional athletes.
But does this approach of picking up players follow cricketing logic? Root, despite his reputation as a technically correct classicist, has an enviable T20 internationals average of 39.1 and has shown, more often than not, that he is capable of accelarating at a fierce pace when required by the team.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain felt that the IPL teams have "missed a trick" by not including Root in their squads.)
Clearly, a case could be made that the Indian Premier League, despite doling out huge amounts of money to perceived superstars of the shorter format (such as Ben Stokes and AB de Villers) and giving younger players a lucrative livelihood, is detrimental and often humiliating to classy players about whom there is a negative perception not always backed by logic.
Has the time thus come to reevaluate the way players are picked by the franchises?
Apart from the humiliation meted out to players of proven international pedigree but with a perception that they are old-school (including the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, who will now play country cricket), even T20 greats such as Chris Gayle may find themselves humbled once his marketability dips. Gayle went unsold on the opening day and was then picked up by Kings'XI Punjab for his base price. Clearly, a different, more honorable system that is also imbued with cricketing logic, can be created.
Recenly, Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez joined Manchester United in a multi-million dollar move. He knew from beforehand where he was headed, his coach Jose Mourinho could also strategise keeping his new recruit in mind as the deal was in the offing for days. The NZPCA statement further adds that the auction system is detrimental to team building as coaches and players get very little time to build up cohesion in the squad.
This is because they are in the dark as to which side players are going to before the auction takes place. Can't a system of direct transfer and contracts be started in the IPL as well? A new system, replacing this medieval practice, will most likely ensure that talent is respected, the quality of the game rises and cricket is the overall winner.