We are actually fortunate in a way, to witness three big franchise level cricket leagues in Nepal. Privileged to see private sector keen to make large investment in Nepali cricket. With the amount of investment, the T20 leagues are also getting bigger and better with every edition. Hiring players in the team via player auction is one of the most scientific methods of building a team squad. But following players’ draft and auction around the globe, I noticed certain shortcomings and glitches in the auction process of our leagues and the same is continuing.
If the organizers are using auction just as a formality to allot players to the different teams, it is advised not to go further with this article. Here I have put forward few of my suggestions on how the auction process can be revamped. This could help the team owners to plan and build a team of their choice and make the auction process more scientific.
Lucky draw should be scrapped completely
“The price of X player has reached the ceiling price. All the six teams have raised their flag and the player’s name has gone into the lucky draw. Team A gets the player”.
Lucky draw is a funny thing. Your team might need two batsmen and you may end up having two bowlers. One team might need a player more than the other team. The lucky draw robs that team of that opportunity to land the player it wants desperately. The player himself might end up being in the team where he gets limited involvement. Since it hugely depends upon luck, there is every chance of teams being imbalanced unless of course all teams have equal share of luck.
There is a purse or a budget constraint to all the teams within which they have to complete their squad. There is also a minimum base price for the players. So why use a lucky draw? If a player is good enough to earn 4 lakhs and the teams are ready to pay him that amount, let them get him for 4 lakhs.
It will be upon the team owners on how they manage to complete the team with the remaining budget. But at least, they can get a player they want. Or if the organizers still want to keep a ceiling price for whatever reasons, then it is better to conduct a closed bidding where the team which has quoted the highest amount can get the player. This was used in IPL auction couple of times and I remember Shane Bond and Kieron Pollard going to Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians via a secret closed bid.
With a lucky draw you really can’t plan anything in the auction. Ideally you keep budget to buy a certain player you want, keep track of the other teams’ budget and make your moves based on that. But when you are not sure of which players you can get, you simply go with the flow and end up having an unbalanced team. This is the reason we have seen teams having batsmen up to number 8-9 with only 2 bowlers and we have also seen teams with 7-8 bowlers and batting ends at number 6.
Player’s categorization and sequence
Players should be categorized into different grades based on the market demand and past tournament trends. We experienced in the past, some big name players had unrealistic high base price, and therefore teams hesitated in getting them. This was a problem in the IPL Auctions too.
It is surprising to see a random sequence being used in the auction. While the organizers and the technical committee might have their own logic and thought process behind it, but judging it from the audience and the team owners’ point of view, it makes a very little sense.
As an audience, you leave your work aside and wait to watch the auction live with much anticipation and excitement, just to find out some unheard names keep popping up at the beginning and keep getting unsold, in a matter of minutes you are forced to switch the channel.
And as a team owner, you want to build your team around 4-5 players and you have a limited team quota and budget. How can you raise your flag to a lower profile player if you don’t know which higher profile player you can get later? Here is an example; a young wicketkeeper comes up with a base price of 50 thousand. But you are waiting to buy another wicket-keeper who has a base price of 150 thousand and willing to pay beyond that. You have just one spot available. You would ordinarily try to get the first player only if you fail to get the second player. But the second player pops out earlier than the more important first player. What are you supposed to do as a team owner? Would you still bid him or wait for the player you want?
If there is a rule, it should be followed
Every team is provided with an equal amount of purse to buy certain number of players. There should be a constant checking of the remaining amount in the purse and teams should not be allowed to place a bid exceeding the purse amount. In the Pokhara Premier League auction, Chitwan Rhinos could not complete their squad with the amount allotted. They had just 20 thousand remaining and they had to sign a player but the minimum base price of a player was 30 thousand.
This was a big mistake by the team management and the technical committee who were supposed to keep check of the team balances. Later they allowed Chitwan Rhinos to get Shakti Gauchan for over 2 lakhs. If the organizers think purse is just an amount and they can be lenient with it, then they should better remove the purse concept completely. Budget constraint is there to prevent richer teams running away with all the expensive players. So if there is a budget constraint, it should be strictly followed.
Is player draft an alternative to player auction?
Many countries except India are using the player draft system in their domestic leagues. This is simpler than the auction and easy to conduct. The teams pick players based on their order or turn. First round picks could be paid the highest amount followed by second round picks and likewise.
However in Nepal’s context where there are limited premium players, players draft may still be unsuitable as the order or sequence is determined by the lucky draw. It cannot be compared with an open auction but is certainly better than the auction with a lucky draw. If the organizers want to keep ceilings for players, they should rather use player draft system.
Overseas players in the auction
I know it won’t be practical right now if I say the overseas players should also go into the auction. Today, overseas players are invited on the basis of player’s relations and the financial strength of the team owners. Teams do not want to reveal the amount they paid to land the overseas players.
If you are looking to create balance between the teams, foreign players should also go in the auction but I don’t see it happening for at least the next 5 years. May be one day, when teams pay our players as much as they are willing to pay to land overseas players, this could be a possibility. Player draft of the available overseas players in a closed room before the actual auction could be a possibility but I don’t think teams would agree to this.
About the Author
Nitesh Regmi is a keen cricket lover and is follower of cricket activities around the world. He is also the founder of popular Facebook group Panel of Cricket Experts. Fascinated by the Indian Premier League auction, he brought the concept of virtual auction in Facebook groups in Nepal where members would get virtual purse to buy players and build a balanced team for different tournaments like IPL, World Cup, Ashes, Champions Trophy and the team with the best performing players would be rewarded based on the fantasy points. He has been part of many such virtual auctions as an organizer or as an owner or consultant of a team. Their team has already conducted multiple seasons of live auction in a real auction like environment.