The build-up to the “Big Indian Premier League” player auction began in earnestness on Tuesday when the team owners met with the governing council.
Representatives of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, who have returned after serving a two-year suspension, were also part of the discussion and made their views heard.
Player retention and right to match were key topics that came up for discussion in the meeting that lasted over two hours. Most owners agreed that teams should be allowed to retain a set of their players with only the exact number coming up for debate.
Reports suggest that representatives of CSK as well as RR requested for them to be given first right over players that were contracted with them prior to their suspension.
If the request is approved by the governing council, then it would pave the way for CSK to get star player MS Dhoni back in their ranks along with local hero R Ashwin. For RR, it will help them procure services of their former stars such as Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith, among others.
In the past, a right-to-match option was provided to teams in the auction prior to the IPL 7 in 2014. It gives teams the opportunity to retain their old players by matching the final auction price.
While other owners were opposed to the request made by the formerly suspended teams, the final decision will be taken by the IPL governing council headed by Rajiv Shukla. The panel will take all suggestions into consideration before confirming the final rules for the auction.
The debate is on if teams should be allowed to retain players at all. According to reports, senior BCCI officials were said to be keen on bringing all players into the auction pool at the conclusion of last season. Earlier this year, Kings XI Punjab co-owner Preity Zinta had said that, according to her knowledge, all players were supposed to go into the auction. However, since then, many teams have expressed a desire to retain players who have been with them for a long time.
It is pretty apparent that fans have begun to associate certain players with specific teams, such as Virat Kohli and Royal Challengers Bangalore, or Rohit Sharma with Mumbai Indians. If these partnerships are broken up, it could impact fan following for these teams and even the league.
Where this argument gets tricky, though, is when it comes to player-team association such as that of Dhoni and CSK.
The adulation of the fans in the city towards the cricketer from Ranchi is well documented. It is a bond that is special and unprecedented. CSK owner N Srinivasan, whose family members were at the heart of the entire corruption scandal that rocked the league in 2013, has already made it clear that the team would actively look to get their star player back in the yellow jersey.
Dhoni’s meetings with the owners this past year have been well reported and it is clear that the former India captain is at home with the management at the franchise.
The question now is whether teams like RR and CSK, who were suspended in controversial circumstances, be given a long rope to facilitate their return? The other side of the argument is that the teams have already served the requisite punishment and should return to the fold without having to clear anymore litmus tests.
If other teams are allowed to retain players, CSK and RR are bound to be at a disadvantage. They would start the auction with zero players while others already have a few retained, around whom they can rebuild the team.
In 2011, when two new teams – Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Pune Warriors India – were included in the league, all original teams were given a chance to retain up to four players, while a certain amount was deducted from their auction purse.
It is likely that the governing council will go for a similar model this time around as well. CSK and their fans, though, will be hard done if they are not given a chance to have first-right over an icon like Dhoni.
While CSK and RR cannot be considered new teams, they will go into the league as Kochi and Pune did six years ago without any players on their roster.
However, the difference between the two sets is the history. CSK are two-time champions, while RR hold the distinction of having lifted the trophy in the inaugural season. The problem, though, is that among the pages of this history also lies a dark chapter when certain promoters of these teams engaged in corrupt practices.
As such, extending luxuries such as first right over certain players should be discouraged. The franchise failed to rein in those that caused the mess.
The burden of re-building a squad should be borne by them. It was expected to be one of the fall-outs when the teams were suspended two years ago. Nowhere did it say that these teams would be handed the core of their team once they return.
If they wish to secure the services of their old stars, they can very well bid for them in the auction. There is no restriction on them to bid for anyone there.
The request was rightfully opposed by the other teams. The final decision lies with the governing council and one hopes they set the right precedent.