Dirk Nannes explains the emotions involved in IPL auction day and reflects on the disappointment of missing out on a deal this time round.
IPL auction day is like no other on the calendar. For those who opt to throw their hat in the ring and take a chance to strike it big, it’s a nerve-racking time. Fortunes are delivered to those lucky enough to get a deal. For others, dreams are shattered.
The process begins a month before the auction with players setting their own reserve price. Traditionally, the reserve price will determine when you will be auctioned: the higher your reserve, the earlier you come up. It’s a massive decision to make, and once made it cannot be changed. The tricky part is this: set it too high, and you might price yourself out of the market and get no bids; but set it too low, and you might be auctioned too late, when most sides have spent their cash or no longer have the requirements for your services.
For the big fish in the auction, life is easy. KP, for example, was always going to go for big money, scooping a £900,000 deal with Delhi Daredevils. He is high profile, in the news, a terrific player, and has previously performed well for Delhi. Mitch Johnson was also a standout – given his recent match-winning form he could well have commanded a higher price than the £630,000 he went for.
Local players went for even more, with Yuvraj Singh (£1.35m) and Dinesh Kartik (£1.2m) the biggest winners. They will all feel happy with their lot, and rightfully so, but far fewer than normal enjoyed this type of success.
The auction itself is a confronting occasion for any player. By and large, cricketers control their own destiny on the field. Your skill and execution determine how well you bat or bowl. But during an auction, your career path is defined for you. Names are drawn from a barrel and auctioned in front of franchise management, coaches and owners. The spectacle is broadcast live on Indian TV and streamed worldwide. It’s BIG business. The closest thing I can compare it to is a livestock or car auction.
As a player you can’t help but watch, knowing that much of your financial earnings for the next year lie squarely in the hands of these people you’ve never met. It’s like a car crash happening in front of your eyes – you can’t help but watch but you also can’t bear the thought of the result!
The resulting headlines in the news will unsurprisingly focus on how much money the ‘big fish’ have made, however they rarely tell the stories of disappointment from the forgotten ‘losers’ on auction day – those who remained unsold.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be picked up in two previous IPL auctions, and not many people in the world can say they were ‘auctioned’. The overriding emotion after those auctions was relief, and I’m sure it’s the same for most. Relief that it’s all over. Relief at finding a home. Relief that you can move on with your cricket and not worry about who’s watching. However, for IPL7 I was not so lucky, and it was a far different sensation.
It was not a massive surprise given the fierce competition for spots and the fact that I was so far down the auction list. But it didn’t prevent my overwhelming disappointment. It’s the same disappointment that is shared by every English IPL hopeful this season (aside from KP, of course!) but in this new age of T20 cricket, you need to roll with the punches. And so with the disappointment of IPL comes the anticipation of the next challenge: the UK season, a new club, and the constant desire to perform at the top of your game.
Fortunately for me, the disappointment of auction day has provided a rare window for a much-needed holiday from the game. I’m lucky enough to be writing this from snowy Japan with one metre of powder falling today. Perhaps not such a bad result after all!
Some of the counties will feel bolstered after the likes of Hales, Wright, Kieswetter, Bell, Bopara and Patel went unsold but I bet at the backs of their minds those players will be thinking ‘I’d rather be in India than here’ as they walk out on the opening day of the County Championship campaign. Even while enjoying a holiday, I’ll be thinking it as well.