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BW Businessworld

The Kings Of Good Times

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All the financial impropriety surrounding the very popular twenty20 Indian Premier League (IPL) could not dampen the spirits of the team owners. This was evident at the two-day player auction — on 8 and 9 January — at the ITC Royal Gardenia Hotel in Bangalore when the promoters opened their purse strings to bag the best talents in the arena. Around 127 cricketers were auctioned for $62.8 million (Rs 282.6 crore) compared to 2008, when 75 players went under the hammer for a collective spend of $36.8 million.

Experts reckon that it is not just the firing power of the players, but also their potential to pull big sponsors for their teams that prompted franchise owners to scramble to have them in their camps. "Teams pick candidates on the basis of two criteria — the player's profile and the brand value of the cricketer," says Vijay Bhardwaj, head of research and consultancy at media firm Network 18. "Teams want players that will be in the news and will be consistently playing and whose value will eventually increase in the international cricketing scene. This will invariably bring in more sponsors."

According to Bhardwaj, Gautam Gambhir got the highest offer of $2.4 million (Rs 11.04 crore) from Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) because he is touted to be the next captain of the Indian cricket team. Similarly, Umesh Yadav or Saurabh Tiwary attracted good offers, since these guys are promising players, Bhardwaj says. In the 2008 edition, Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had attracted the highest bid of $1.5 million from the Chennai Super Kings.

The player auctions for the fourth edition of IPL, which was telecast live on television for the first time, saw the franchise owners doing some serious reshuffling in their players list.

KKR, for instance, has gone all out to revive its fortune by spending big bucks on Gautam Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan ($2.1 million) and Jacques Kallis ($1.1 million). These players are expected to do exceptionally well this season, and hence are likely to draw big brands to sign deals with the team.

KKR also became the team to have spent the most on strengthening its player line-up, spending over $8.5 million, averaging almost $710,000 per player. KKR did not retain former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly.

Clearly, team owners are betting big on young cricketers to do the magic for them. The price tags of many young players have gone up remarkably since the 2008 auction. Gambhir, for instance, saw his base price go up from $220,000 in 2008 to $725,000 this year.
Likewise, Yusuf Pathan was bagged for $2.1 million ($475,000 in 2008), Robin Uthappa $2.1 million ($800,000 in 2008) and Rohit Sharma $2 million ($750,000 in 2008). Interestingly, the 21-year-old left-handed batsman from Jharkhand, Saurabh Tiwary, went to Royal Challengers Bangalore at an impressive price of $1.6 million, nearly 40 times his value in 2008.

On the other hand, many top players, who had garnered high bids in the 2008 auction, fetched much less this time round. For instance, Rahul Dravid ($500,000) and Ishant Sharma ($450,000) saw their auction prices falling more than 50 per cent this year compared to last time.

The IPL razzmatazz, which begins on 8 April, about two weeks after the end of the cricket World Cup, will feature 10 teams — including newcomers Kochi and Pune — playing 74 matches over 45 days. Analysts expect sponsors to spend big bucks in April. They say this edition of IPL might see participation of more regional or smaller brands who can afford to advertise in the IPL, but not in the World Cup.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 24-01-2011)