During the 1997-’98 season, despite being one of the best players in the NBA, Scottie Pippen was just the 122nd highest-paid player in the league.
Pippen was a defensive wizard. He would make steals, he could play point and if he decided to mark a player it would almost certainly make things very difficult for the opposition. He was big, he was quick and had an amazing wingspan too. Along with Michael Jordan, he formed the most formidable tandem in the ‘90s for the Chicago Bulls, winning six NBA championships.
However, Pippen’s salary didn’t quite add up. During the 1997-’98 season, he earned just $2,775,000, good enough for the sixth-highest salary on the Bulls roster. By comparison, Jordan earned an eye-watering $33,140,000 that season.
Pippen didn’t like how things had panned out for him and he grew increasingly frustrated with management over his contract situation. He felt he wasn’t getting what he was worth and he was right. The quality of effort and the salary just weren’t matching up.
Now, take the same train of thought and make your way to the IPL auction.
As many IPL insiders have explained earlier, the mini-auction is a totally different beast. Teams have money and they have certain slots to fill. So they don’t mind spending the big bucks on a player if they feel he will be a perfect fit for them. And that is the IPL auction dynamic.
But imagine if you are Jofra Archer, who was RR’s best bowler by a distance last season, or Nicolas Pooran, who had a fine season for Punjab Kings, or even AB de Villiers. Wouldn’t you feel as Pippen once did? Wouldn’t these buys have an adverse impact on the team dynamic?
Value vs Need
Kyle Jamieson - 15 cr
Glenn Maxwell - 14.25cr.
AB De Villiers was bought for 11.5cr.
Chris Morris - 16.25 cr.
Jofra Archer was bought for 7.20 cr.
Jhye Richardson - 14 cr.
Riley Meredith - 8 cr.
Shahrukh Khan - 5.25 cr.
Nicolas Pooran was bought for Rs 4.20 cr.
Krishnappa Gowtham - 9.25 cr.
Moeen Ali - 7 cr.
Sam Curran was bought for Rs 5.5 cr.
Of course, many players are happy to be earning the big bucks but how does one explain to Pooran why his value is just Rs 4.20 crore while Jhye Richardson or Riley Meredith or Shahrukh Khan are worth considerably more?
How does one tell Steve Smith, who stroked two brilliant ODI centuries against India recently, that his value (Rs 2 crore) is less than other Australian players – Dan Christian (Rs 4.8 crore) or Glenn Maxwell (Rs 14.25 crore) or Meredith (Rs 8 crore) or Nathan Coulter-Nile (Rs 5 crore).
If you pay 14.25 crore for any player, you have to be absolutely sure of what you will get out of him. Can anyone be sure of which Maxwell will turn up? Does even Maxwell know? He scored his last IPL fifty in 2016 and had a very poor 2020 season for Punjab Kings but he has a larger-than-life reputation. It seems like a gamble and it is.
So why is he going to be paid more than one of the most consistent match-winners in AB de Villiers? Of course, there may be hidden bonuses that ABD gets that are not in the public domain but still...
At any rate, it will be a tricky conversation. The team management can put forward their explanation but whether or not the player (who is getting the short end of the stick) will be convinced is an altogether different matter.
TOP 10 BUYS AT IPL 2021 AUCTION
Chris Morris – South Africa – Rajasthan Royals – Rs 16.25 crore
Kyle Jamieson – New Zealand – Royal Challengers Bangalore – Rs 15 crore
Glenn Maxwell – Australia – Royal Challengers Bangalore – Rs 14.25 crore
Jhye Richardson – Australia – Punjab Kings – Rs 14 crore
Krishnappa Gowtham – India – Chennai Super Kings – Rs 9.25 crore
Riley Meredith – Australia – Punjab Kings – Rs 8 crore
Moeen Ali – England – Chennai Super Kings – Rs 7 crore
Shahrukh Khan – India – Punjab Kings – Rs 5.25 crore
Tom Curran – England – Delhi Capitals – Rs 5.25 crore
Nathan Coulter-Nile – Australia – Mumbai Indian – Rs 5 crore
In layman’s terms, the real value is what the player is actually worth, without any outside expectations from the team or the player himself. An impartial judgement of what the player is bringing to the table. But in sport, this isn’t easy to do because you are also constantly trying to get the player to sign the contract before he reaches his peak... before his real value goes past your budget.
So essentially, teams end up paying the perceived value based on a prediction of what a player will actually bring to the set-up. But by shelling out a huge sum that defies logic (for example Rs 15 crore for New Zealand allrounder Kyle Jamieson), are teams shooting themselves in the foot?
This sort of money means that the player who has only played 6 Tests, 2 ODIs and 4 T20Is will be under pressure because the team will expect solid returns on their investment. It will also mean that all the other quality players whose contracts aren’t as big will be keeping a close eye on his performances.
The value of a contract in most professional sports is directly related to performance. The performers get paid the most and that is alright. The established performers earn more than newcomers and that is alright. But the IPL has its own warped logic – one that upends expectations in the strangest way possible.
A draft system (like the one employed by the NBA) could bring more sense to the proceedings but perhaps the BCCI likes things the way they are simply because the madness of it all makes for a better spectacle. And maybe, just maybe, that is the only logic that matters.