What Happens Behind the Scenes at the IPL Auction

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What Happens Behind the Scenes at the IPL Auction

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Today, fans who can’t contain their excitement for the far-off IPL will get some small relief, as the IPL auction charts the lay of the land for the upcoming season. However, what cricket fans get to witness in the sanitised live telecasts is just a slice of what actually happens. What I get to see, as a sports producer and from being a part of this drama since the time of its inception, is what actually happens behind the scenes. 

Every franchise has its own distinct framework and character that defines the approach on this most dramatic day — when one of the eight teams picks a winning combination, while the others seal their fate without even knowing what has happened.

There is one IPL team, “the Nerds”, who were once in the news for non-cricketing reasons during the IPL’s earlier days, but are now one of the most prepared ones at the auction table. They pride themselves on never having picked a player they did not wish to (not something most teams can boast of). There is constant interaction between the different members of the core think tank well before D-Day and they scout fresh talent all through the year. Ahead of the 2018 auctions, the captain of the Nerds was very adamant on buying an Afghanistani spinner at any cost. The rest of the think tank weren’t too keen and so to settle this, they actually flew the player down to try him out and realised they shouldn’t invest in him because he did not quite fit in.

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Every franchise has its own distinct framework and character that defines the approach on this most dramatic day — when one of the eight teams picks a winning combination, while the others seal their fate without even knowing what has happened.

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Then there is one team I call “the Pushers”. They had one really good IPL but have largely been on the lower end of the points table time and again. They have a trigger-happy owner who is known to just lift the paddle on the table to indicate a bid without even consulting with the rest of the core members. They love playing troublemaker during the auction — pushing the price of a player just to try and weaken the purse strings of their competitors — but have at times fallen prey to their own ploy. It’s a problem that few other franchises face as well. In 2018, there were nearly 15 instances where teams ended up with players they did not intend to pick up in the first place.

Then there are “the Top Dogs”, one of the IPL’s big guns, on whom the other franchises always keep an eye. This team does solid homework as well, but have a very different system in place. They are rigid in many ways and it’s a team where the owners have the say, not the captain or the many coaches. The Top Dogs are one of the most successful teams in the IPL. A few of the other franchises are even wary of the players they normally bid for. Some just get in on the bid because this team has. They have tons of superstitions, like performing poojas for the jerseys of incoming players before handing it out to them to wear on the field.

Then there is “the Losers’ Club”, which is always pretty confused – that’s not me, that’s internal nomenclature. They initially decided to base their IPL strategies on purchasing one big player and building around him. That strategy has clearly not worked; they have not won a single IPL despite having a strong leader. They switched things up a little during the last auctions but they let go of some key players, but it doesn’t help that the skipper goes about retaining players he likes rather than those that are needed. 

There are “the Top Dogs”, one of the IPL’s big guns, on whom the other franchises always keep an eye.

But the skipper of the Losers’ Club isn’t the captain who influences the IPL auction. Most of the captains may not be sitting at the auction table but they are just as important to the whole auction process just as much as the coaches and the management.

Mr Flare-up, known to have an aggressive streak often suggested and even picked up players who he found intimidating or tough to play like Shane Bond, Morne Morkel or Tymal Mills. On the flip side, he also lent his ears to certain people on the support staff who discouraged him from picking up players like Hardik Pandya and Shreyas Iyer, years before they grew up to become what they did in the teams they eventually play for now.

Normally the foreign captains refrain from making suggestions or giving opinions on the domestic, lesser known players they could go for at the auctions, for obvious reasons. Not Mr Dynamite though. And that’s because he spends time watching tournaments like the Tamil Nadu Premier League or the Karnataka Premier league just to keep an eye out on prospective talents his team could scoop up. No wonder he is one of the top players in the world too.

Throughout the entire auction there is a palpable nervous energy in the air. It’s very similar to the last over of a T20 match. There are no friends, and everyone wants to outwit the other. Emotions run high and at the end of the day all planning and strategy can be overrun by the egos and the pure joy of outbidding each other.

And this auction promises to be just as thrilling. One trend of course is going after the flavour of the season, and judging by the buzz for Yashasvi Jaiswal, that could be him. Expect every single team to scamper after this exciting youngster. And while you sit back and watch the auctions this year too, you’ll probably try to look beyond all the drama to recognise all that goes into making an IPL auction table what it is.

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