IPL Governing Council has fixed February 12/13, 2014 as dates for player auction with revised regulatory conditions for next three seasons of the Indian Premier League. In an announcement made on December 24, 2013, salary cap of Rs. 600 million is fixed for each franchise in 2014 season, to be increased by 5 percent annually until 2016. Franchises must spend minimum Rs. 390 million rupees in salaries every season, if they opt to retain five players. They will then be left with Rs. 210 million to build the rest of their squads. The Council has fixed the maximum team strength at 27 players, of which no more than 9 can be foreigners. Henceforth, Indian Rupee will be the currency at auction, but overseas players can take their salaries in the currency of their choice, at exchange rates prevailing at the time of transaction. Retained players will now have a substantial raise in salaries as per new norms, with the first Player getting Rs. 125 million rupees; second Player Rs. 105 million; third Player Rs. 70 million; fourth Player Rs.50 million and fifth Player Rs. 40 million. These figures add up to make Rs. 390 million, set for retaining the choicest five. Players are allowed the options of extending their one-year term with franchises to another two years, provided they exercise such options before December 15 every year.

Governing Council’s announcement, however, includes an interesting twist with the introduction of a Rights-to-Match feature. This will make the auction process lively by permitting a franchise to buy back its player, if another franchise buys him in a successful bid. As an example; if Chennai Super Kings places a bid on an “un-retained” former MI player, then MI will have the option of first right of refusal and buying back that player after the bidding process is complete. The right-to-match option will, thus, work like a joker card. In a way, the feature will benefit not only the player’s original franchise but enhance the market value of that player. To illustrate further, assume that CSK makes a successful bid on MI’s Ambati Rayudu, then MI can use the joker card in refusing to let go of Rayudu, provided MI matches Rayudu’s bid price offered by CSK and they should feel that Ambati is still important to them. IPL authorities, however, have introduced some riders. Any franchise willing to retain 3-5 players can use the joker card just once and those, who wish to retain 1-2 players can do so twice. But franchises, without any retained player, can use 3 joker cards in the auction.

It appears that the joker card system is not uniformly advantageous to everyone since mega-buck franchises like KKR, MI or CSK, who already have quality players, can use the option to consolidate their core strength. A possible scenario for some top IPL franchises can be like this;

Neta Ambani & Sachin Tendulkar IPL Seasons

Neta Ambani & Sachin Tendulkar

Mumbai Indians: MI is the most consistent IPL performer, with a victory under their belt in 2013. They have bunch of such talented cricketers that it is difficult to pinpoint, which five they could retain. Regardless, the 5 most probable players could be; 1) Rohit Sharma, their captain; 2) Dinesh Karthik, a prolific run-getter and wicketkeeper; 3) Lasith Malinga, an ominous bowler; 4) Mitchell Johnson, now performing at peak in current Ashes series and; 5) Kieron Pollard, the explosive batsman, useful bowler and great fielder. Other than these retainable five, MI may like to keep; a) Ambati Rayudu; b) Dwayne Smith; c) Pragyan Ojha; and; d) Harbhajan Singh.

Delhi Daredevils: DD began with a bang in initial IPL seasons but somehow they have failed to combine well at crucial junctures. In the auction, they may like to retain; 1) David Warner, a formidable opener; 2) Virender Sehwag, the most experienced player in shorter formats; 3) Morne Morkel, an accomplished pacer; 4) Kevin Pietersen, the Englishman with a solid technique; and 5) Umesh Yadav, a gifted bowler. Apart from these, DD will ensure that they keep; a) Mahela Jayawardene; b) Irfan Pathan; and c) Andre Russell.

Chennai Super Kings: CSK has been able to retain their core players over the last six seasons and they will definitely wish to retain; 1) MS Dhoni, captain and their flagship player; 2) Ravindra Jadeja, a tremendous all-rounder; 3) Ravichandran Ashwin, a top-class spinner; 4) Dwayne Bravo, a man with great bowling skills; and 5) Suresh Raina, whose IPL record for CSK is exemplary. These apart, CSK will like to prevent the cross-over of a) Albie Morkel, b) Michael Hussey and c) Mohit Sharma.

The new system looks unfairly tilted in favour of rich franchises like CSK, MI or KKR. Smaller franchises like Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals may not be able to spend big bucks, required for acquiring top cricketers. Take the example of RCB’s Chris Gayle. He is an impact player, for whom RCB can offer any amount up to 125 million; the highest salary fixed for first retained player. Small franchises willing to buy Gayle should quote 125 million. But afterwards, that franchise will have very little money to further build its team.