Just when the media was preparing to ask Lalit Modi, the Indian Premier League (IPL) commissioner, about the global meltdown and it’s likely impact on his billion-dollar baby, he walked in and dramatically declared: "We have increased our budget for this IPL season IPL by 25 per cent."
He then settled down to formally open the curtain for the 2009 season: with the eight franchisee teams arriving here in Goa with their key aides for the player auctions, the excitement is rising yet again.
A total of 50 (eight new players have been added to the earlier list just today) have been listed to go under the hammer. The big news, however, was the sudden and unexpected withdrawal of Australia’s captain-in-waiting Michael Clarke.
"Clarke has said he will not be available this season and we don’t see a slot for him either this year or the next year," Modi said, with typical flourish. The middle-order batsman was apparently not willing to budge from his $1m tag and the franchises were not ready to bid for him at such a high price.
The 50 players will be divided in four pools. Each pool will be presented before the buyers on a screen for whom the bidding will begin. "Who begins the bidding and which player is first bid for will be decided on a lucky draw (through a system of numbered balls representing the player and the franchise)," Modi explained.
A few franchises have already gone ahead and bought uncapped cricketers — for example: Daredevils buying David Warner and Mumbai Indians buying Graham Napier — after which a total of 17 slots are left for the franchise owners to fill with a total spending capacity of $13.59m available for all teams put together (see box).
Four slots will be available post auction for replacing (Pak) players who will not be available this season. If the money is not spent now, it cannot be used at a later stage.
In the previous year, the IPL had negotiated the reserve price for players and Modi explained that "it was a risk that the IPL had taken." However, this year, the reserve prices have been negotiated by the player or the player’s agent.
This means, if the player is not bought at the auction, he will be left with nothing. Another new rule this year says that the IPL will not allow any mid-term replacement, unlike the last year. "Last year, we allowed a few leverages but this year it will not be allowed. It is for that reason that we have increased the foreign players from eight to ten," Modi said.
Kevin Pietersen has been tagged at $1.35m and commands the costliest reserve price in the auction. He’s followed by teammate Andrew Flintoff at $950,000. "We successfully concluded our negotiations with the England Cricket Board (ECB) too," Modi said.
A total of 17 Aussies, seven Englishmen, five Sri Lankans, seven South Africans and six West Indians will be up for sale. Let the show begin.