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At IPL auction, shock and awe

DH News Service, Bengaluru, Jan 31 2018, 0:02 IST

In the 10 years of its existence, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has altered cricket's culture and reach irrevocably. As commercialisation explored new frontiers, the richest cricket league in the world fused entertainment and sport into a heady concoction, making heroes out of little-known figures in cricketing outposts while generating a new breed of fans in an age of instant thrills. No wonder then, the business of cricket grabbed eyeballs over the weekend, turning many into millionaires in the blink of an eye at the players' auction in Bengaluru. The auction had special significance this time, with the league's eight franchises having to form their squads almost from scratch. Planning and proper execution were the keywords, with a strong and well-balanced team being the eventual goal. The experience gained from the last decade was on full view as most teams made judicious selections, not hesitant to splurge cash on men they felt would make the ultimate difference.

The core had been put in place, thanks to the players' retention earlier in the month, and for many franchises, the auction was about forming a squad around these key personnel. Even so, the numbers were staggering and there was a thread of uniformity running through the choice of players, with Indians getting preference over talent from abroad, barring the expected purchases of a Ben Stokes or a Mitchell Starc. With only 182 slots available, it was obvious that a large majority of the 578 players in the fray would go unsold. Ultimately, 169 players were bought by the franchises, of which 113 were Indians.

Adaptability to the conditions was a crucial factor that influenced these preferences, with several uncapped players taking home huge pay packets. Clearly, the talent-spotters had their fingers on the pulse. The proliferation of leagues around the world has given birth to a new breed of cricketers - the T20 specialists -- and the teams are now able to source talent from a much larger pool. The likes of D'Arcy Short and Jofra Archer might not have played international cricket, but their fame has spread, thanks to their performances in these leagues. Also of note was the way some big names fared, with age and recent displays denting the value of batsmen like Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh. In the West Indian's case, it could be said that his brushes with the authorities in Australia did not go unnoticed by the men who mattered. Sentiments, certainly, have no place in cricket's big churn, and after the two-day frenzy, the cream has risen to the top to enjoy the welcome embrace of wealth. It will be up to these rich talents to show their money's worth, in two months' time.

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