It's now truly the Indian Premier League

For one, the sentimental value of players was not taken into account, even if they were Sourav Ganguly, Brian Lara or Mark Boucher. Two, the realisation that it is safer to invest in Indians than chase the mirage of overseas players.

At the IPL mini auction the year before last, there was a hue and cry over the entire Pakistan lot going unsold. By the same argument, after the two-day auction, quite a few Twenty20 specialists from England, South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka were left untouched by the owners of the ten franchises.

The owners were willing to be charitable to the Dravids and the Laxmans or pay four young Indians upwards of $2 million rather than looking wide-eyed at highly-rated overseas players.

Even Gautam Gambhir did not think he would lead the pack of multimillionaires with a whopping $2.4 million (11.04 crore), followed by Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa $2.1m (9.66 cr) and Rohit Sharma $2m (9.20 cr). Three other Indians -- Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh and Saurabh Tiwari - are not very far from the two-million-mark.

Contrast these figures with the highest paid overseas player Mahela Jayawrdene's $1.5m and the other two foreigners in the million bracket to get an insight into the mindset of the moneybags controlling the franchises. Only two other overseas players, David Hussey and Dale Steyn could get to a little over a million dollars each.

In the first auction in 2008, people were left gaping at Mahendra Singh Dhoni getting $1.5 million and a year later Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen's price tag of $1.55m and that figure looked obscene. What can you say now, that a clutch of brash young men were bought for over two million each?

Franchise owners knew that they would have to shell out almost double the amount they had the last time for marquee players and the value-added investment for promising players this time around. It was well known a year ago that some of the players will cross the two-million figure at this auction and so the market watchers were not surprised at all at the turn of events. What they might not have expected is the inflated sums some of the Indian players were bought for.

Curiously, the players retained by the franchises are all Indians. When it came to the auction, teams like Bangalore Royal Challengers and Chennai Super Kings tried their best to win back players who served them well in the first three seasons.

Going by the same yardstick, many felt the inclusion of Sourav Ganguly would have  immensely enhanced the brand value of Kolkata Knight Riders, but then the professional management brought in by the owners thought otherwise. Come to think of it, KKR is the only franchise that did not have any of its owners at the auction table.

Franchises have realised that their brand value will be enriched by  local players and those in the catchment areas, not all those super stars from overseas who just go through their motions and that, too, if they condescend to play at all. It happened with Chris Gayle, Ricky Ponting et al.

A look at the composition of the teams makes it clear that the accent is more on the Indians as they have to fill in seven slots in the team as against a maximum of four overseas players. Some owners smartly invested in players who have done well in domestic cricket.

With former captains Anil Kumble and Stephen Fleming, Geoff Lawson, David Whatmore and Darren Lehmann having a bigger say in strategising, the owners worked it out all well.

The fact that some of the overseas coaches went round watching the Ranji Trophy matches in the last couple of weeks made them plump for young Indians, ignoring players from their own countries. That explains how someone like Murali Kartik could get a good price after going unsold the first time when he went under the hammer.
The squads will get their final shape with the inclusion of uncapped players from their catchment areas and that pool has some terrific talent. The first three seasons have thrown up a fair sprinkling of bright young players, some of whom have gone to play for the country in limited-overs games.

It's now truly the Indian Premier League!

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