Andrew Gourdie: The real problem with the IPL auction

Has the IPL auction really been beneficial for all cricketing nations?
Has the IPL auction really been beneficial for all cricketing nations? Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: There's a great irony to complaints from Cricket Players Association heads this week about the Indian Premier League auction.

"The Indian Premier League has been great for cricketers but ..."

Stop right there.

The Indian Premier League has been great for cricketers. It has ruined cricket in some ways, improved it in others. But there can be absolutely no question that the Indian Premier League has been a game changer for those who play the game. It has turned world-class players into mega-rich superstars, and turned modest cricketers into multi-millionaires right around the world.

Mainly Indians and Australians. Which is perhaps where greater focus should lie.

Whether by accident or design, India and Australia's stranglehold on cricket at governance level has had a flow-on effect to T20 franchise cricket. It has become an incestuous cosy club for two very powerful cricketing nations.

The Big Bash League has flourished in Australia, and the timing of the competition feeds perfectly into the IPL auction. Two of the BBL coaches - Daniel Vettori and Stephen Fleming - are also at the helm of teams in the IPL, so their bidding at auction will inevitably be influenced by their experiences down under. There are three Aussies coaching in the IPL: Ricky Ponting spent his summer commentating on the Big Bash, Brad Hodge was playing in the Big Bash, and Tom Moody is the director of cricket with the Melbourne Renegades. Five out of eight IPL coaches with strong roots in the Australian equivalent.

Andrew Gourdie: The real problem with the IPL auction

It's a perfect storm for Indian and Australian players to fetch big money at auction, with performance in the Big Bash creating an inflated market among buyers who want to retain or sign players they know and trust. It's really no wonder Brendon McCullum was the top-priced kiwi. Hell, if Trent Boult was Australian - or had at least been playing in the BBL - he would have fetched well over a million dollars.

Whether it's property or players, an auction gives you a true sense of worth in any market. So what do the prices at an Indian Premier League auction tell us about the player? It's a combination of form, ability, marketability, popularity, familiarity, and demand for a particular skillset.

You can talk all you like about the problems with the IPL auction. The players don't like it? Show me a cricketer who's embarrassed they earned more than their international teammates. It's humiliating? Don't enter the auction. Players can't choose where they play and who they play for? Tell that to NFL and NBA players trying to insert a "no trade" clause in their contract. The IPL season runs for eight weeks, not eight months. It's hardly a life sentence. Do you want more money, or more control?

The problem with the IPL auction is that its timing punishes players who spend December and January playing international cricket, instead of in the Big Bash. It provides rich reward for some average Australian domestic players, and those who have sacrificed an international career to chase T20 riches. It does not reward the best players in the world because a number of factors -  internal and external - have a serious impact on the market.  

Put simply, the problem with the IPL auction is that the rich get richer, while the poor remain poor.

Andrew Gourdie is a sports reporter/presenter and host of Radio LIVE's Sunday Sport from 2pm.