Auction? No Thanks, We’re Cricket Lovers

Posted on January 20, 2011 by

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A few days before the auction of the players was to begin for the 4th season of the IPL, I was discussing about cricket with someone who isn’t exactly an ardent follower of the game. He laughed and said that the players were going to be sold off like prostitutes. I didn’t know what to make of it and kept quiet. Kapil Dev, a person whose I don’t always agree with, had raised dismay at the auctions the first time it had occurred before the inaugural IPL and I had not known what to make of it then as well.

Well, now I am sure. The auction business broadcast on live tv is not just ugly, it is worse than Big Boss and Rakhi Ka Insaaf, two Indian television broadcasts which have been shameful television in the name of TRPs. TRP is what is given as justification for anything in India actually. When Ashutosh Gowarikar (the famous Indian director who director Lagaan) took Sajid Khan (another Indian director, if you can call him that) to task over making fun of people in an awards ceremony, Sajid Khan’s reasoning was that he was doing it as it was what people wanted. So let me ask everyone who justify thus – if you show a live rape on TV, it will sell and you will get a lot of eye balls. Would that make it right?

Coming back to the auction – in the end, Md. Kaif, India’s World Cup winning Under-19 Captain was auctioned 3 times. When he was being bid for while he was auctioned the third time, the bidders were laughing and joking about the player. It was quite sickening to watch them make wisecracks as a cricket fan that has cherished the game and everything about it. Kaif was small fry though.

Arguably India’s greatest captain in Sourav Ganguly wasn’t bought by any of the teams either. Just after the auction ended, Harsha Bhogle, India’s most respected commentator asked the question that what the big deal is. Many players have been not selected before. I don’t think he got the sense of humiliation it is for a fan to see his hero disgraced. It isn’t the perfect example, but maybe if he thinks about the hero worship he had for Azharuddin before Azharuddin let him down with the match fixing, he may get a sense of perspective.

He and other Indian fans do not even need to dwell that deep. Ganguly was one of the finest captains India produced and I don’t think any one can deny that. He had a controversial end to his captaincy but he did bring a paradigm change in the team and captained India to many famous wins. As an Indian fan, and it doesn’t really matter if you are a fan of Ganguly or not, it should hurt to see your former captain disgraced like this.

I am not going into the selection issue of Ganguly. Arguments can be made that he didn’t deserve to be in the team because he didn’t cut it for various reasons and that is fair enough. I am not the biggest Ganguly fan in the planet. My point is that the scenario which played out shouldn’t have played out in the first place. People can also allege he raised his price before the auction. That was an error of judgment but should that mean being humiliated like this? I really don’t think so.

It wasn’t just Ganguly who was humiliated. Brian Lara, one of the greatest batsmen ever to have played the game was also not selected. Also not selected were loads of players from all over the world. As a cricket fan, it was pathetic to see so many talented cricketers not being bought. There was a cheapness to it which just wasn’t right. Some players were even put to the hammer a second time and yet no one bought them.

A lot of people are saying the IPL is good for the young players from India but the cap/uncap rule has put a huge dampener on that. If you haven’t played an international match for India, you can’t go into the auction and can fetch yourself a maximum of Rs. 3,000,000. So Manish Pandey, one of the best performers in the recent IPLs won’t get a lot of money. This rule isn’t there for the foreigners which mean that an Australian under-19 player can laugh his way to the bank. I don’t think Manish Pandey and others would dare protest either even though everyone who follows the game knows it isn’t just.

Before people start saying I am not being rational about the whole thing, let me tell you that I follow sports keenly from all over the world and I don’t see such a scenario anywhere that I am aware of. NBA, for instance, has its drafts for the young players. The draft is about the opportunity to play in the NBA and not about the money or being disgraced in any way though.

Firstly, I don’t think that you should have auctions every few years. You should have contracts and once the contracts are over, you can have new contracts. Even if you are going to have contracts, have them within closed doors and don’t let it be public the players who weren’t chosen and such.

Really, I don’t want to see an auction guy go on shouting “I sold Stuart Broad” repeatedly on national television.

It’s just not cricket.

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Article written by Pratyush Khaitan:

Pratyash is an entrepreneur and has been a huge sports fanatic for as long as he can remember. His first cricket experience was when he watched the South Africa re-admission match at Eden Gardens in 1991. He was mesmerized by Shane Warne’s action and has grown up bowling the leg spinners, flippers, googlies and of course the zooters tirelessly in the back yard. Watching first class cricket in a near empty Eden Gardens, drinking lemon tea on a cold winter morning is his greatest joy. Pratyash blogs about sports at Sportolysis, and is on twitter @pratyushkh

Posted in: Guest Columns, India, IPL