IPL auction: Does Yuvraj deserve Rs 7 crore?
There is still question marks over whether the southpaw can recreate his old magic consistently.
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Ever since the IPL auctions got over on Saturday, everybody has been talking about Pawan Negi. The interest around the new blue-eyed boy of the Delhi Daredevils shows no sign of relenting, and not without a reason. After all, the former Chennai Super Kings (CSK) man was lapped up by the Delhi franchise for a staggering Rs 8.5 crore, making him the costliest Indian buy in Saturday's auction.
Quite a feat, considering you had marquee Indian players like Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma in the fray.
While Negi bagging the money that he did does come as a surprise, the fact that he would be getting a good Rs 1.5 crore more than his more illustrious soon-to-be India teammate Yuvraj was an even bigger surprise for many.
However, if you take out the weight of fame, and choose to be driven by pure logic and hard-nosed calculation, Yuvraj was lucky to get the Rs 7 crore that the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) offered him.
The southpaw can still hit a long ball, but don't forget, he made a comeback to international cricket only last month in the T20 series against Australia, after a long lay-off. He has been playing on the domestic circuit, but it is not the same as international cricket. He helped India win a cliffhanger of a contest in the third T20 against the Aussies on January 31, hitting some lusty blows in the all-important last over.
But he is not the Yuvraj of 2007 who hit Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over or who was the "player of the tournament" in World Cup 2011. Age and ailment had taken a toll on him and his struggle (21-ball 11) in the World T20 final in 2014 gave the impression that his fantastic career was set for a screeching halt.
However, he has got another chance at the international stage now, but IPL franchise owners would not have wanted to go gung-ho splurging money on Yuvraj, for there is still question marks over whether Yuvraj can recreate his old magic on a consistent basis.
Moreover, Yuvraj, for all his exploits at the international level, hasn't done anything earth-shattering in the IPL, except for a couple of hat-tricks. So you would have expected the franchises to be a bit wary of going for Yuvraj, and in no way would he have got anything even remotely close to the jaw-dropping Rs 16 crore he was offered by the Delhi Daredevils last year, or even the Rs 14 crore that the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) paid for him in 2014.
In fact, the RCB looked set to take Yuvraj in for Rs 5.5 crore - only a fraction of his record price last year - before the SRH joined the fray, raising his price by Rs 1.5 crore. The Kings XI Punjab also apparently wanted Yuvi, but backed off once his price started to climb.
What was a bit strange, though, was the relatively small amounts that the foreign players, even marquee players like Kevin Pietersen, Dale Steyn and Aaron Finch were bought at. The only exception was probably Shane Watson who was taken by the RCB for Rs 9.5 crore.
Pietersen went to the Pune franchise for Rs 3.5 crore. Steyn, on the other hand, was bought by the Gujarat Lions for Rs 2.3 crore - surely not enough compensation for the best fast bowler in the world. Australia's T20 captain, the hard-hitting Finch almost missed the bus, and could only get a look in during the accelerated auctions, in which teams recall unsold players, when he was bought by the Lions for just his base price of Rs 1 crore.
Indeed, the IPL auctions this year had a desi flavour which couldn't be missed. The idea clearly was to get reasonably good Indian players who would do the job for you, than the big names of world cricket.
The francises realised that there would be a cap on the number of foreign players they would be able to field in a match and hence, running after big foreign players would not do them any good.
It is a mistake that the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) committed in the first few editions of the IPL, when they wanted to be flamboyant (not unexpected when one of its owners and the face of the franchise is the king of show business), and put together a star-studded line-up comprising foreign recruits like Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul and Brad Hodge, but had very few quality Indians. Consequently, the KKR could not achieve much, for it could have only four foreigners playing a match.
The KKR's fortunes started to improve only after it learnt to rely on its Indian recruits, like Manoj Tiwary and Manvinder Bisla, both of whom inexplicably were left in the cold this year.
The franchises did their homework well and focussed on Indian cricketers, and hence you had even unheralded players like Murugan Ashwin and Deepak Hooda bagging over Rs 4 crore, Karun Nair Rs 4 crore and Nathu Singh Rs 3.2 crore. Even KC Cariapa drew intense bidding, eventually going to KXIP for Rs 80 lakh.
Does that mean they are better than the Pietersens and Steyns of the world? Certainly not, but here was an auction where fame took the backseat and what counted was "value for money". A problem with having too many foreigners is also that you would have to release them for their international commitments (unless they are retired players), which would leave you depleted. Not a problem with desi players.
The focus was also on filling up slots than blindly going after the big boys. So the idea was to have a main player and back-ups (preferably Indian) for every position, and not spend unnecessarily, even if it meant leaving out some of the biggest names of world cricket.
So, players like Mahela Jayawardene, Martin Guptill, George Bailey, the Hussey brothers - Michael and David, Tilekaratne Dilshan, Hashim Amla, Brad Haddin, Cameron White and Darren Sammy, some of whom had made rich contributions to the tournament, went unsold, for the priorities of the franchise owners were different this time around.
It looks like all the franchises got the team they wanted, more or less, or at least that is what the team owners would have us believe. The spotlight was particularly on the two new teams - the Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiants - and whether they could reach some sort of parity with the other teams. After Saturday's auction, it looks like the teams are, by and large, even in terms of strength. The wait now is only for the IPL to start.