The country’s richest man combined with the world’s richest cricketer to form a cricket team. Even so, the Mumbai Indians do not find themselves in the IPL semi-finals. This just goes to show that there are some things like winning cricket teams that money can’t buy.
There were cheerleader groups from all over the world of sport, including the high profile group of girls from Washington Redskins of NFL fame. The girls from Down Under that Deccan Chargers put together were consistently the best — full of good cheer and high energy right through the league. Again, the most expensive or expansive did not mean the best.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the most expensive buy at the player auction. He has delivered the minimum performance in terms of leading his Chennai Super Kings into the long IPL weekend of semis and final even if he was not the best performing batsman of the league. At under half a million dollars, Shane Warne the player was a bargain but to buy his brain they had to double his fee while appointing him as the coach. Like another famous spinner Bishen Bedi, Warne believes more in the "necktop" than the laptop, which the Victorian may have come to detest because it was overused by John Buchanan at Team Australia.
The cheapest franchise, Rajasthan Royals, considered a snip when bought at the early auction is now favourite for the title with international bookmakers penciling in the Warne-led side as the shortest priced of four at the finale. Until he bowled the horror of a final over in which he gave away 25 runs, Shane Watson was considered by many as the best performing all rounder who was bought for a "discount sale" tag of $125,000.
Another one out of the bargain basement was Shun Marsh who was elegance personified. A lot more will be heard of this son of Geoff "Swampy" Marsh who once peppered the point and third man fence with his powerful play square of the wicket.
His son looks a far more grounded batsman who will be suited for any format of the game, from Tests to T-20. The icon players have not exactly sparkled though Sehwag has held out the promise every time that the big one was just coming.
It is a sobering thought that the world’s most accomplished Test and ODI batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, has not had things his own way. In fact, he has been seen struggling to get the kind of free flow that the T-20 format demands, the contrast with Sanath Jayasuriya quite startling.
The three most expensive teams at the franchise auction — Mumbai Indians, Bangalore Royal Challengers and Deccan Chargers — did not make the cut, which just reinforced the main thrust of the argument that money cannot buy everything. The fourth most expensive team just made it to the last four, meeting the deadline in their final league game. A public feuding over performance not matching potential or the bill was, however, confined only to Bangalore where it took a while for the realisation to register that sport is a different kind of business. From here, it is sheer adrenaline flow that is going to define what is going to happen in high-pressure knockout situations. In the heat of battle, it is performance that is going to count. The sums paid at auctions will have even lesser relevance when a whole team is in a do-or-die situation.
As the IPL progressed, it appeared as if chasers were better off because teams batting first had no way of knowing what totals to aim at. That could change dramatically because chasing can be far more stressful as we have seen in the finals of many world level competitions in which runs on the board seem to assume a greater proportion simply because they are there first. Four of the five most competitive teams made it to the knockout of the first IPL.
The battles for the biggest prize offered for a league are just beginning. Best to grab the most comfortable position on the couch, with the popcorn and lager handy this weekend.