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The Indian Premier League (IPL) teams begin their campaigns by retaining a maximum of five players ahead of the 2014 auction. The teams undergo a major overhaul and can only retain a maximum of five, and pursue a sixth in the ‘right to match’ feature. Nishad Pai Vaidya examines the auction rules and how the retention system helps teams off the field.
What is the hallmark of a sports team? All the silverware in the glittering trophy cabinet does help foster a winning attitude and a work ethic. But, it has more to do with the fans and the fanatical following off the field. A sports team can command an army of aficionados across the world; a group that would be unflinching in its support. But, that fanaticism only materialises over time, with sustained success and more importantly, certain figures on the field of play that transcend the boundaries. One may argue that the Indian Premier League (IPL) teams may find it difficult to build that fan base since they shuffle sides every three years. However, the player retention system offers them the chance of building those iconic figures.
For a league so young as the IPL, a lot of the fans’ focus is on the players. When they can associate those players with a particular team, they warm up to the franchise-based concept and become ardent supporters. That is why, teams like Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings have been able to build a humongous following in India. Not only did they retain their biggest stars, but also managed to snap a few others to persist with a core group. When there are familiar figures that appear on the park, the fans do associate with a side. However, after every three years, there is a major overhaul in the setup and suddenly, the fans have a new set of players to contend with.
This time, each team have the option of retaining five players. The Royal Challengers Bangalore have already retained Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. While Kohli has played for Bangalore since the first edition, Gayle, and de Villiers joined in after the second auction and have been stupendous success stories. Kolkata Knight Riders are likely to keep Gautam Gambhir and star spinner Sunil Narine. Meanwhile, Chennai Super Kings have held on to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo. The other teams are expected to announce their retentions on January 10.
Although teams can retain a maximum of five players, they still end up losing the majority of their roster. Now, they have another chance to retain some of their other squad members through the new “right to match” feature available at the auctions. So, if a team doesn’t retain a player from their previous roster and then goes on to lose him to another team in the auction, they can still push to get him back after the auction is done using the new provision. But, if you have retained five, four or three players, you can only use it once. If a team retains two or one, they can use their rights to match feature only twice. But, if you don’t hold on to any player, they can get three back at the auction with the new feature.
In total, the teams have a purse of Rs 600 million or Rs 60 crores to buy or retain players. If they retain all five, then they are left with an auction purse of only Rs 210 million to buy the rest of the squad members. Which means they would spend Rs 390 million on five big stars alone. In the past, we have seen that major players command the maximum share of the purse and retaining five does help in a way; in that you don’t have to pursue them at the auction with some fierce competition. At the same time, you may have this strong core and may not be able to buy back your desired stars. There are further salary caps for the retained players. For the first player, it is Rs 125 million or 12.5 crores. The second had a cap of Rs 95 million or 9.5 crores. It is Rs 75 million for the third, Rs 55 million for the fourth and Rs 40 million for the fifth.
As of now, a team can retain a maximum of four Indian players. In their overall roster, they can have nine foreigners at max. So, that too plays on a team’s mind during the auctions as they have to fill other slots. If they vigorously bid for any other star after retaining five, they may actually wipe off their allotted purses.
So, from the outside, it all looks like a game, wherein each team needs to have a set auction strategy to come out on top. In 2011, Chennai handled it brilliantly and could buy back most of their players. Not all teams can have such a strategy and it requires great application to get it right on the day. Some teams even suffered as they couldn’t buy the players they wanted at the auctions and ended up with a weak roster.
Coming back to the original point, this isn’t your typical squad building. In other sports, we see the on and off transfers during the window, but most players spend years at a club. That is when they leave behind a legacy for the particular team. Everything attached to the side has some intangible value attached to it. But, the IPL teams will take a long time to build it as fans may come and support it, albeit without the same level of attachment or unconditional support.
One thing is for sure though, Dhoni and Raina will leave a legacy behind at Chennai are they are set to finish nine years at the franchise. For Mumbai, it would be Lasith Malinga, Sachin Tendulkar and Kieron Pollard who could hold the same weight.
Like the tournament, the auction is good entertainment one would say and come January 12, 2014, many would be glued to their screens for the two day event. The retention is perhaps only a warm-up. Let the games begin.
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