IPL 2012: Value for Money
When Kolkata Knight Riders decided not to retain Sourav Ganguly ahead of the re-auction in 2011, there was a lot of chaos. Cricket fans in India are an emotional lot, especially when it comes to cult heroes, and this move did not make sense to them.
But the Indian Premier League is a business. Every activity related to the IPL is about return on investment, and for the first three seasons, the Kolkata-based franchise was going nowhere. Whatever the reasons might be, they took a calculated decision - right or wrong - to not renew any previous contracts and start afresh. Their purpose is evident not only from the dropping of Ganguly but also the fact that they let Chris Gayle go too.
Elsewhere, even VVS Laxman was sold to Kochi, a city to which he doesn't really have any connection when he pulls on an IPL-franchise jersey. This year he went unsold in the auction as Deccan Chargers looked the other way. In the long run, these strategies may or may not bear fruit for them. It is the same for everyone. What it does underline, though, is that IPL is not run on emotions anymore. It is about spending your money well, getting a proper return on the investment made and if things don't work out, cut off the bad buys and make new better ones.
In that light, let us put under the scanner some of the good and bad purchases of the 2012 auction and transfer window, even as the current season enters into its fifth week. Which players are worth their money and who is wasting everybody's time? Who has been a real value for money and who is just too expensive for his boots?
Let us begin with the two teams named afore. The Knight Riders bought Brendon McCullum (900,000 USD), Sunil Narine (700,000 USD) and Marchant de Lange (50,000 USD) this year. Quite clearly, Narine has been their best buy. No team has been successful in picking his bowling as batsmen just don't know which way the ball will turn. Players like Ganguly, who can play spin even in sleep, have struggled against him. In eight matches, he has picked up 13 wickets, with a best of 5 for 19 thrown in. However it's his economy rate that catches the eye - 5.25. For a format that is truly against the bowlers, that figure is gold dust.
Deccan brought in Parthiv Patel (650,000 USD), Daniel Harris (70,000 USD) and Darren Bravo (100,000 USD). None of them have made any impression whatsoever. In fact, Patel's inclusion is a bit of a nightmare because Kumar Sangakkara just cannot decide what should be the batting order. However, their worst move was not in buying but offloading a player of Kevin Pietersen's caliber. Now on his way to England, this man single-handedly brought forth the momentum that Delhi Daredevils made good on. Virender Sehwag may be sizzling now, but at the start of the tournament, they needed a player to put his hand up and give them good runs at a more than good rate. Pietersen, with a hundred and a fifty to his name, smacked 305 runs in 8 matches at an average of 61 and a strike rate of 147.34. It is only a wonder what he might have achieved had he played the entire tournament.
Ross Taylor also came in through the transfer window and adding him to the batting prowess of Mahela Jayawardene (1,400,000 USD), Delhi look set to continue their dominance.
A similar impact has been achieved by Owais Shah and Brad Hodge for Rajasthan Royals. While Shah came in from outside the auction pool, Hodge cost them 475,000 USD. Both these batsmen have made a positive impact on the way the Royals have scored their runs, playing the role of finishers to the hilt and more importantly holding fort until Shane Watson finished his duties in the Caribbean. They needed another replacement in the form of an experienced spinner and at 180,000 USD, Brad Hogg has led their bowling attack with aplomb.
Some of the buys made by the teams with big-pockets haven't really been convincing. Of these, this year's costliest player Ravindra Jadeja (2,000,000 USD) has led the way. Inconsistency has been his bane when wearing India colours and a hefty price tag hasn't really added to his confidence.
Others have made clinical purchases. Kings XI Punjab made one significant investment and that was in the lone Pakistani-origin player in the IPL, Azhar Mahmood. He came in a bit late and then his initial visa was a restricted one. But ever since these off-field issues got sorted out, he has been a permanent feature of their playing eleven. He hasn't scored many runs, which is obvious given his batting position low down the order. However, it is his bowling that has been a true revelation. With immense experience gained in the English T20 league, he has displayed how bowling at the death is an art. At 200,000 USD that is not a costly tutorial.