IPL player retention: Ruthless dropping of big names shows franchises mean business
Just like the cricketers, even the team owners have evolved and changed their strategy over the years. The big indication of the same has come through this season’s IPL player retention.
‘Overstaying (one’s) welcome’ is an idiom often used in cricket to describe those players who try to take juice out of their careers despite getting past their respective sell by dates. The task of furthering their careers became easier for such players after the advent of T20 cricket. With T20 leagues mushrooming all over the world and franchises looking for star power to attract fans as well as sponsors, players could carry on for longer.
It has been little over a decade since T20 cricket swept away the imagination of cricket fans, administrators and sponsors across the globe. Cricket’s shortest format had the necessary chutzpah to attract those who felt Tests and one-day internationals were too long to endure. It had the impact of a sport like football and hence appealed more to the masses.
The slam bang style and the pyrotechnics associated with the format gave enough opportunity for sponsors and team owners to get value for their money and T20 cricket soon became a big money-spinner. T20 cricket forced players to evolve and align their game to a format which was punishing and ruthless. Where fortunes changed after every delivery and fate of matches swung after each boundary.
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Just like the cricketers, even the team owners have evolved and changed their strategy over the years. The big indication of the same has come through this season’s IPL player retention. Teams are no more ready to carry the baggage of ‘has been’ stars who have been living on past glory.
While these cricketers have been superstars in their own right, their recent performances have left a lot to be desired. Hence, teams have decided to cut some flab and they now mean business.
Let’s take the case of Yuvraj Singh, who has for a while lived on borrowed time. Yuvraj was bought for a whopping 16 crore by Delhi Daredevils in 2015. His returns for the season were a meagre 248 runs from 14 matches with only two half-centuries. His lacklustre form was one of the major reasons for another abysmal season for the Daredevils.
He then made a move to the Sunrisers Hyderabad, where he contributed 488 runs in 22 matches over two seasons. His performance in the middle order was crucial for the Sunrisers in 2016 as they went on to win the title.
He was bought by Kings XI Punjab in 2018 but the 2011 World Cup winner failed to get going at all. He ended with just 65 runs from 8 matches and had a strike rate of 89.04. Quite naturally Yuvraj finds himself without a team yet again as KXIP have released him from his contract. Did someone say he was a former captain at the franchise? well, no one’s listening.
Another big name casualty to get the boot is Gautam Gambhir. Gambhir has been out of favour from the Indian team set up for a few years now but his rich vein of form for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL kept him going. But once the marriage with KKR came to an end, Gambhir was always going to find it difficult. He though made a sensational comeback to his earlier franchise Delhi Daredevils last season, who also named him their captain.
Gambhir started well but his season turned pear shaped as he failed to contribute with the bat and after reports surfaced of bitterness between him and coach Ricky Ponting, he swiftly announced his resignation from captaincy. Gambhir never played for the rest of the season and he too has been released by his franchise.
Not just big local stars, teams have pulled the plug on top international cricketers too as their availability throughout the season is under scrutiny. Brendon McCullum, Mitchell Starc, Mustafizur Rahman, Aaron Finch, Chris Woakes, Jason Roy, Pat Cummins, Carlos Brathwaite and Glenn Maxwell are all names which could have found a place in any team a few years ago just on the basis of their reputation.
But teams are not ready to shell out on big names without assessing factors like current form and availability throughout the season any more. They have become more shrewd than ever and if the transfer widow is anything to go by, fans should get ready for an action packed and high stakes IPL auction next month.
First Published: Nov 16, 2018 19:37:46