No big names, it was all about 'X' factor at this year's IPL auction

Mumbai, Feb. 4 -- Most of the IPL team owners have endless coffers. But, interestingly, with every season they have become increasingly judicious in their spending. The way the Ambanis, Srinivasans, Mallyas and Roys have gone about buying their players indicates controlled spending. In contrast to the first edition, when the focus was on bigger names, the franchises have become wiser and now understand the importance of right balance. They are now applying every success mantra in sports history to build the best team.

A case in point is the auction held on Sunday where relatively unknown names emerged surprise packages, proving how well the franchises had done their homework.

Talking to experts, one came to the conclusion that every principle of selection was applied as showcased in the movie 'Moneyball', where players are drafted based on in-depth statistical analysis (known as sabermetrics), scouting instincts and recent performances. Teams are no longer impressed by names of greats like Michael Clarke or Ricky Ponting.

"The performances in various tournaments around the world are keenly followed -- the T20 competitions in Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh," said Praveen Amre, the Pune Warriors assistant coach, who won a bidding war for fast bowler Kane Richardson, shelling out a whopping R3.72 crores ($700,000), which was seven times his base price.

Calculated risk

"A couple of guys go there to get first-hand information. It's a calculated risk. We have a lot of examples of newcomers being very effective. Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard are a few such players," Said Amre.

Unknown player, in fact, are at a huge advantage because their technique is yet to be analysed. "Known names have been analysed thoroughly by the opposition, but unknown players can act as surprise packages."

Asked to justify the price tags, the former India player and 'A' team coach said, "If they can win two-three games on their own, the value of the player is recovered." The most interesting case study is Glenn Maxwell, the only million-dollar buy in the auction on Sunday. Nicknamed "The Big Show", the Australian all-rounder has played just nine ODIs and an equal number of T20 matches for his country and has not achieved much, but he commanded three times more money than Ponting and Clarke.

So what is Maxwell's 'X' factor? Mumbai Indians team mentor, Anil Kumble, said they knew what they were doing and he was pleased with the 'prize catch'. In fact, Kumble and John Wright, Mumbai's new coach, had short-listed a few names in Bangalore a week back and Maxwell was high on their list. "He is an exciting player and a good catch. I knew him before he made his debut for Australia. He will be with the Australian team in India for the Test series, so looking forward to seeing him perform," said Kumble.

Players like Chris Morris benefited for performing well against an IPL franchise. Just like Pollard burst on to the scene with a spectacular show in the inaugural Champions League, Morris was impressive in Lions' win against the Chennai Super Kings last year. The pacer left a lasting impression on CSK coach Stephen Fleming. The result: He was snapped up by CSK for $625,000. It's another thing that the South African is not even in line for national team call-up.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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