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The purchase of India's Under-19 players in IPL: Is it worth the deal?

An opinion on whether the high amount purchases of India's Under-19 players is worth the expenditure or not.

Rishabh Pant scored a blistering 24-ball 78 to propel India to victory against Nepal in the Under 19 Cricket World Cup.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) auctions in Bengaluru on Saturday witnessed nothing new that we have seen in the past 8 years. Team owners arrive in a luxurious hotels and players are sold for outrageous amounts. While some of them become superstars, many wither away and perhaps never even get heard of in the future.

However, during the course of the auction, a few of the trends concerned me, and one of them involved the amount at which some of the India Under-19 cricketers were purchased by the franchises.

Presently featuring at the Under-19 World Cup, a platform apt to showcase the enormous talent that they possess, the Indian youngsters have been putting in some terrific performances, particularly the likes of Rishabh Pant and Sarfaraz Khan with the bat, and Avesh Khan and Mahipal Lomror with the ball.

Under-19 boys garner huge amounts

But what was startling was the amount at which these boys went at the bidding process.

In the match against Nepal, Pant hammered his way to a 24-ball 78 that helped his side reach a target of 170 in merely 18.1 overs on Monday. Then on the day of the auctions, while teams were busy building their composition, he stroked his way to a 96-ball 111 to help India get to 349 for 6 in their quarterfinal against Namibia which proved to be just a bit too much than what the Namibians would have liked to chase.

Expectedly, the word about his exploits spread like wildfire and when his name came up in the auction, there were several teams that lined up to get him into their kitties. As it turned out, from a base price that began at INR 10 lakhs, Pant’s value rose up to maddening proportions and finished when the Delhi Daredevils got him at a sum of INR 1.9 crores.

His captain in the Under-19 team, Ishan Kishan, also started with a base price INR 10 lakhs and eventually ended up with a price of INR 35 lakhs.

Now, it is very important to state here that Pant is 18 years old and has played just 2 First-Class matches and 4 List A Games for Delhi, while Kishan is a year younger to him and has played 10 First Class matches, 14 List A matches and 4 Twenty20 games for Jharkhand.

Ishan Kishan Under 19 World Cup
Ishan Kishan was bought by the Gujarat Lions for INR 35 Lakhs.

The question that first came to my mind apart from the fact that do these boys need so much money, amounts that some would earn during the course of a 30-year professional career, was this: Are these kids going to form the backbone of the respective IPL franchises?

The Daredevils, in the auction, brought the likes of Karun Nair in addition to already having what many are calling the next big thing in Indian cricket- Shreyas Iyer. The former impressed one-and-all when he was with the now-defunct Rajasthan Royals while the latter just recently became the third youngest to cross 1000 runs in a single season of the Ranji Trophy.

Now that begs another question: Are the Daredevils going to pick Pant in their team, that will also see a Sanju Samson being given a bigger responsibility and overseas professionals like Quinton de Kock play a major role?

If so, then who are they going to drop to fit Pant in, and if not, then what was the need for the maddening bidding bargain for him and eventually get him for 19 times his base price? 

Same is the case with Kishan. The Lions, who already have a very impressive line-up with the likes of  Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum et al. Where are they going to fit him? 

In two years, all the players will go into the auction pool just like in 2008. Having said that, would the franchises then go behind them, despite not giving them sufficient opportunities to show what they are made of against bowlers higher than the level that they are playing at the moment?

How much importance should we give to Under-19 exploits?

Unmukt Chand led India to the Under-19 World Cup crown in 2012, with a superbly crafted century in the final and expectedly because of that, found many attractors at the auction. 

The Royals picked him for 65 lakhs in 2013 but guess what? In the 2013 and 2014 season, he played a combined total of 10 matches with 160 runs. Reason? The lack of space anywhere in the line-up.

Would the team have dropped Ajinkya Rahane to fit Chand? Would they have dropped Samson, clearly one of the finds of the League and bring him in? 

Chand found a new team in 2015 in the form of Mumbai Indians, but that didn't see a change in fortunes for him. The franchise opted to use Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons as their openers after Aaron Finch left them because of injury and Chand warmed the benches.

Following that, he is now playing a much bigger role for his state side Delhi, opening the batting for them and has also captained India ‘A’ and done well.

The bottom line here is this: If teams aren't going to make full use of young cricketers, then why are they buying them? To make them sit in the dugout?

I have heard players saying that IPL was a great experience for them, but failed to understand how so with the limited chances given to them to show who they really are.

There is often a phrase used at workplaces, “Work smart, not hard.” Clearly, this line needs to be understood by some of the franchises.

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