The uncertainty over their availability cost Pakistani players lucrative Indian Premier League contracts as apprehensive franchisees overlooked them in today's auction.
IPL commissioner Lalit Modi conceded the biggest question facing the franchisees was the availability of the players they would buy and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Shilpa Shetty said her team did not bid for any Pakistani players simply because they were not sure about their availability.
"We were not convinced about their availability and that's why we did not want to take any risk," Shetty said after her team bought veteran Australian Damien Martyn for USD 100,000.
Pakistani players were barred from participating in the last edition in South Africa in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. However, their players were registered for auction this time after a delay in Pakistan government clearing them to play in the Twenty20 tournament and India granting them the visas.
There was a hushed silence when the name of the Pakistan Twenty20 World Cup star player Shahid Afridi, who was expected to be a top draw in the auction, was announced first up. After that it was clear that none of the Pakistanis would be picked, though Kolkata Knight Riders bowling coach Wasim Akram was said to be keen on getting fast bowling sensation Mohammad Aamer.
The Akmal brothers -- Kamran, who played for Rajasthan Royals in the first edition and Umar, who scored century on debut against New Zealand -- were among the favourites.
In all, eleven Pakistani players, including Abdul Razzaq, Rana Naved and Imran Nazir, who were part of the breakaway Indian Cricket League (ICL), were in the auction list.
Pakistan players who went unsold were Shahid Afridi, Misbahul Haq, Umar Gul, Imran Nazir, Rana Naved, Mohammad Aamer, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Saeed Ajmal, and Sohail Tanvir.
Giving the instance of Sohail Tanvir, who played a crucial role in Rajasthan Royal's fairytale win in the inaugural IPL, Shetty said there was no question of bidding for a player who might not be available in the tournament.
"See, every team has its own strategy. If someone is not going to be available, why bid for him," asked the actor, who was in touch with captain Shane Warne over phone before she bought veteran Australian Damien Martyn.
Modi also articulated that players' availability was a concern for the franchisees, who were not ready to spend a fortune for cricketers, who may not be available for the tournament.
"The biggest question for the franchisees was the availability of the players. They are no more ready to spend USD seven or eight million for someone who would not be available for the tournament. It not only exhausted their purse but also wasted slots," Modi explained.
"They want only those players who would be available for the tournament. They are spending money and they want to get the results," Modi said.
The IPL commissioner said he expected Kieron Pollard, Kemar Roach and Eoin Morgan to attract multiple offers and go into the Silent Tie-Breaker.
"I thought they are the three players who would go to the Tie-Breaker. It was surprising that Roach didn't while Shane Bond did and Bangalore got Morgan which was a steal. More so because only this morning we got the confirmation that Morgan will be available for the full IPL and not just half of it," Modi said.
Kumble to remain RCB captain
Meanwhile, Royal Challengers Bangalore owner Vijay Mallya, who bought Englishman Eoin Morgan today, announced that Anil Kumble, who was with him during the auction, would remain the captain of the side in IPL III.
"Anil has been successful in the past and he would continue as the captain," Mallya said.
Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner Jay Mehta also took the occasion to announce that the outfit had dumped the multiple-captain theory of former coach John Buchanan and Sourav Ganguly would lead the side.
Kings XI Punjab co-owner Preity Zinta, whose team recalled South African Yusuf Abdulla today, said Yuvraj Singh would continue to remain a key player despite losing captaincy to Kumar Sangakkara.
"Yuvraj is very, very essential part of the team and one of the top players. We went for a little bit of change amicably but surely we are not the only team that changed captain. Bangalore and Kolkata have done it in the past. We are looking for the perfect balance and let's see if it works," she said.