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Value for money! - Part I - Chetan Narula Column
by Chetan Narula
Feb 08, 2009
The world is amazed at the wealth that has been displayed at the second players' auction in Goa for the IPL's second season. Yes, the world is reeling under a financial crisis and there is not enough liquidity in the market, but do people really think that would have anything to do with the BCCI and its ventures? Or, the businessmen who own airlines and oilfields, and a Formula One team! Some of them make movies too. So, no, especially when more than just a game of cricket is at stake! For them, it is also about business and that needs sound investment.

Lest we forget, for some one like Vijay Mallya, it is also a matter of pride considering his franchise's fate in the last edition. So, after all has been said and done; placards raised, prices jacked up, players sold and bought, the question remains if they have done justice to the near 16 million USD the franchises have spent. Here's a bid (pun unintended) to form an early assessment of the purchases made and did the teams actually plug any holes, especially with the Pakistani players missing out this year.

Bangalore Royal Challengers: Let's start with Mallya itself. Last year his complaint was pretty much that he had been fooled into buying a 'test' team in T20 flannels. On that pretext he fired Charu Sharma, climbed all over Rahul Dravid and now started this year by replacing Kiwi great Martin Crowe with Ray Jennings (former South African coach). Seems he has assumed full control of the proceedings there and now will do pretty much what he wants.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that what he does is right. And that's where his purchase of Kevin Pietersen comes out to be a big mistake. He had the chance to right a few wrongs of last year with the two million dollars available to him and he spent most of it on one player, who will be available for just three weeks. On top of it, he is in the running to be captain as well. How Mallya expects Pietersen to turn the tide all by himself in 21 days is unfathomable?

The better thing to do would have been to buy two-three players - in the Jesse Ryder mould - who are there for the entirety of the tournament and would also bring about the much needed balance he wants in the side. But one thinks, that is not something Mallya is ready to listen to and has thus missed the trick yet again. If Dravid is anywhere as intelligent as he is made out to be, he would do better to stay away from captaincy in Pietersen's absence. Because one expects much of last year's disaster to repeat itself!

Hyderabad Deccan Chargers: They really let the treasury chest open last year spending near four million dollars and look what it fetched them in the end: the last position and a hell lot of squabbling within the team in the off-season. Luckily, the Royal Challengers took the 'laughing stock tag'.

In the last eight months, a lot of changes have taken place behind the curtains. Gilchrist is now captain and Darren Lehmann is the coach, so they will bring fresh and aggressive ideas suited to this format, something VVS Laxman was unable to.

Dwayne Smith is an all-rounder but won't be able to fill the void of Shahid Afridi, that is, if and when the Pakistani fired. Otherwise Smith would be a good investment. Fidel Edwards might prove to be the fire power that Chaminda Vaas lacked and now seems to have lost completely. All in all, they weren't expected to splash around after the splurge of 2008 and seem to have made sound cricketing investments. They can only go up from here!

Kolkata Knight Riders: Along with Rajasthan Royals, they are the worst hit in terms of losing their Pakistani players. Umar Gul was superb last season and Mohd. Hafeez was useful. Shoaib Akhtar is always an asset if fit and it took him one match to prove it last year. Suddenly all three aren't there anymore and there was no time to decide on alternates or money to buy them with.

For the Knight Riders are one of the two franchises who were bought by Bollywood stars and unlike some other owners, they don't carry a million dollars as pocket change, however rich they may be. This year they will have Brendon McCullum available throughout the tournament and Chris Gayle is fit again too. Plus coach John Buchanan meticulously signed a host of bits and pieces players in the off-season from India and Australia. So everything said and done, SRK not having the money to splurge is actually working out very well. Mortaza is a good purchase considering his aggressive bowling and ability to use the long handle but he came a bit expensive. But then that is what auctions are all about!

Rajasthan Royals: There was this speculation that coach and captain of Rajasthan Royals Shane Warne would be bidding for Kevin Pieterson since the two were close friends. And it seemed just, for last year, the franchise didn't really bid for anyone too pricey. But with their Pakistani players missing out, they had a change of plans and went in for players who would complete their squad in the title defense bid.

That shows why Shane Warne is a cricketing legend and Mallya is just a businessman tempted successfully by Lalit Modi's marketing skills. He saw the need for a fast bowler and he bought Shaun Tait, a young Aussie who has just returned from a sabbatical from the game. One is sure that this stint with Warne is going to be a turning point in his career.

They also got Tyron Henderson. Yes Tyron who? Well, if Mike Hussey is Mr.Cricket, this guy is Mr.Twenty20. He has played in South African & English T20 leagues, and now all set to play in India. All this while he averages 21 with more than sixty wickets in around seventy T20 games! All hail Warney!

To be concluded.

(The columnist is a sports writer based in New Delhi, India.)
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