Gone are those days, when bigger names used to be a primary target for the owners of the IPL Teams. As I could remember, in its inaugural year, Kolkata Knight Riders were ecstatic to sign some of the stalwarts of the then International Cricket, in the likes of Brendon McCullum, Ricky Ponting and Shoaib Akhtar, barring one or two all of the teams were seen to splurge on the parameters of fame of an overseas player, and the trends were to make the team heavy on paper! As there are twists in every tale, the idea didn't work, some of the teams who were heavy on Names and fan following had to suffer terrible defeat in the three seasons of the First Cycle. Kolkata Knight Riders, being the most prominent of them, led by the icon himself Sourav Ganguly, and a bench strength of Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle, Shane Bond, Brad Hodge and stars like David Hussey, Owais Shah, had failed to secure the Top 4 in all three seasons!
It was then those franchise owners realised that in your Playing 11, only 4 can be overseas, that implies seven solid Indian Players are necessary to build a successful Franchisee Cricket Team. From a fantasy view of a Tendulkar & Jayasurya on either side of the crease, Gayle & McCullum opening the game or MSD as the keeper, while the bowler as the dominant Muralitharan, came in the idea to identify slots and credentials that brings a formidable playing 11.
The teams were seen to be heavy on names, but an analysis showed their frail picture. All sections were not covered, the presence of multi names resulted in alternations in the playing 11, there was absolutely no core in the team, players had less security in terms of playing, the bench had quite a number of young talents who hardly got any exposure & received fewer opportunities to break into the final team in a star-studded squad. The idea needed to change, as told by the analysts, and they brought about a radical change in the process of thinking.
The new school of thought, used by the Team Management these days, covering all aspects, from openers to the death bowlers was the ideal thing, the modern-day bidders are like recruiters who seek multiple skill sets in talents before getting them on board. Some of the skills can be listed as:
- If you are an opening batsman, you should be able to utilise the Power Play and score runs quickly and at the same time be able to manage the fierce fast bowlers and hit the spinners at the same time.
- For the middle order batsmen, the criteria remain: to be able to rotate the strike, convert the ones into two's, twos into three's, at the same time hit boundaries, and minimise dot balls.
- For someone to bat down the order, strike rates, ability to hit sixes and accelerate the scores as well as defending the death bowlers are a required skill.
- Spinners are evaluated on how they can check runs and minimise the strike rates of hard hitters and pick wickets through the variety of spin they possess.
- Fast bowlers have criteria to be able to bowl in power play as well as check runs in the death, pick wickets and leaking less runs in terms of boundaries and maximum and contain the batting side in mid overs.
Premium is enjoyed by those who are Openers and who can keep the wicket at same time, the left arm fast bowlers, all-rounders who are economic as well as destructive with the bat, spinners who give less than 7 runs and over and pick wickets at regular interval, and the boys who score a 25-30 in every game in 12-15 balls. Teams tend to sign players with such credentials, as this provides them more options in a playing 11.
Now coming to the identifying the players. These days teams have corporate setups, being led by a CEO, a team of analysts who invest huge capitals on sophisticated tools on data crunching & analysis, a team of scouts who rely on field works, be it the top-rated franchisee leagues of the world or be it the domestic cricket in India from the Ranji Trophy to the newly formed Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, they travel a lot throughout the calendar year to identify talents from the different corners of the world. Based on their reports, the analytics team, rate them on a scale of 10 for a set of parameters and uses sophisticated tools to make a valuation for the players, the maximum and minimum price they can invest on a particular player. The process is repeated for all players in the particular auction list.
The game is simple, all I need is a player in a particular slot who possesses the following skills, the individuals who satisfy them are on my wishlist, and I would select from the team. It’s no more on names, it has nothing to do with individuals, it’s a completely new direction. The premium in such investment comes through acquiring young players keeping in mind the futuristic scope of the team, as management experts say, a right business decision is taken considering a long-term benefit, that comes through continuity and mentorship. Also, to provide more security to players and reduce the operating costs, the strength of the squad is kept as minimum as possible having a solid 11, 2-3 backups and another young few reserves. Auctions are no more a gambling place, it is an open market with less demand and more supply, where you utilise your strategic mind to form a strong core!