In a bid to introduce something new each time players go under the hammer, the Governing Council of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has introduced a new 'joker' rule that has the potential to suit a set of teams and go on to defeat the purpose of having a complete reshuffle.
The IPL has often been accused of being more entertainment than serious cricket and questions over its credibility as a cricket league have refused to die down. IPL has a new chairman but his ideas may not be revolutionary. Ranjib Biswal's appointment as IPL chairman in September end came as a big surprise. He is a known N. Srinivasan ally and his latest proposals on IPL auction look terribly lopsided. The latest rules for the auctions that allows teams to retain five instead of four like before and get a 'veto' power over three more of their current squad members defeats the very purpose of the auctions.
When the league was in its nascent stage, teams like Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders picked squads that didn't quite fit the bill for the format. They struggled to keep pace with the likes of Chennai Super Kings and even Mumbai Indians to an extent until unexpectedly underdogs Rajasthan Royals walked away with the title. Kolkata were astute enough to go for a complete overhaul after the first three years of their existence and build a side around players who earned them the title in 2012. Same goes for RCB, who went from possessing what was deemed as 'Test' side in a T20 league to lining up some of the most devastating stroke makers like Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
Consider a team like Kings XI Punjab which has done reasonably well in the first six editions but haven't had the fire power to go all the way and challenge the stronger sides. They could be looking to overhaul their side and the lack of some of the players due to the added 'joker' option that allows teams to reclaim three of their players by matching their bid price over and above the five retained players could come as a stumbling block. A system like this also comes as a boost for a team like Sunrisers Hyderabad, whose nucleas was formed around just six or seven players who had to pull their team through. They could make great use of this system.
While one can argue that this system will help teams retain their core group, but not each of the eight teams would be keen on doing that and that brings about the lack of level playing field, another issue that this league has perennially faced.
From the Rs. 60 crore salary cap, teams will have to pay up Rs. 12.5 crores for the first retained player, Rs.9.5 crores for the second, Rs. 7.5 crores for third and Rs. 5.5 crores and Rs. 4 crores for the fourth and fifth players. This is where the teams like Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings will have to tread carefully. It is almost certain that they will retain five players and look to get three more, given that they have built a very strong unit.
Consider the situation for current champions Mumbai Indians. They boast of a very strong squad and may find it tough to pick just five players to retain. In the process, there are chances that the likes of Pragyan Ojha, Dhawal Kulkarni, Nathan Coulter-Nile and even Lasith Malinga (given Mitchell Johnson's availability) could be released with the intention of using a veto on them with the joker option. Most of these players, who tend to warm the Mumbai bench sometimes, could be regular starters for a weaker side. That's where the number of players retained comes into picture.
If a team like Kolkata Knight Riders, Kings XI Punjab or even Sunrisers Hyderabad decide not to retain all five, they will have a monetary advantage over Mumbai and can outbid them to take away a couple of players from under their noses.
Even Chennai, who have a strong squad, could face the risk of losing out on a few players. While that is a good sign for other teams, the fact that their prices will have to grossly inflated, will cause an imbalance in the rest of the squad for a team that bids aggressively.
In ideal conditions, all eight teams could retain five and get 'their own' three players to re-sign for them but not all teams will benefit from that. This 'joker' system will introduce a chaos in the auctions unless teams strategize to perfection and come in with a fixed list of players that they'd like to form their squad around. While this new system challenges the strategic minds across eight teams, it surely goes on to negate the logic of an entire reshuffle.