Sunday signals that the IPL circus is once again on the horizon, coming back for the 6th season of cliches, tacky glitz, cheerleaders and DLF Maximums. Once again the absence of any Pakistani players will be the elephant in the room that the organizers and the commentators will staunchly refuse to acknowledge, as it repeatedly slaps its trunk on their faces. Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting will demand the highest starting price at US$400,000 each, although the IPL auction itself will be conducted in Indian Rupees. Rather disappointingly, the only representative from the associate nations is Kevin O’Brien ($50k), still just about getting in on the merit of his innings vs England in Bangalore in 2011. On the subject of England players, only two will be up for grabs. Ravi Bopara ($100k) and Matt Prior ($200k). This despite Monty Panesar being available for consideration. No doubt if Nottinghamshire had freed up some of their players, the likes of Samit Patel, Alex Hales and Michael Lumb would all be up for contention. For any player not picked up on Sunday, there will be a second trading window that starts on February 6th.
Taking a look at the Sri Lankan players in the auction; which excludes players still contracted to their respective franchises; it there are some new names up for grabs, along with the old ones like Thilan Samaraweera ($100k), Prasanna Jayawardena ($50k) and Jehan Mubarak ($20k) for whom it will come as a major surprise if they managed to find a franchise. Dinesh Chandimal was bought by the Rajasthan Royals last season for $50k yet never played a game, even when the Royals could have used him. This time he is up for auction at a reserve price of $100k, suggesting his stock has doubled during what has been a tricky year for the Sri Lankan Cricket team. Chandimal has retained the wicket-keeping gloves of late, despite the emergence of Kushal Perera who has had a decent limited overs series in Australia. He will come into the auction at an uncapped $20k. This is also the same price that Sri Lanka A captain Kaushal Silva will command, who along with Nuwan Pradeep (also $20k) are amongst the cheapest players who have also been capped at Test level. Perhaps one of the potential bargains of this auction is Thisara Perera who has played for three different IPL sides, yet has not managed to hold down a regular place. He has very much grown as a limited overs player, and played well in his small stint in the BBL. Yet this auction only puts him at $50,000. No doubt a host of teams will be after his services and that price could shoot up as a bidding war ensues. Jeevan Mendis is also valued at the same price and would be a bargain for a team looking for a middle-order power hitter and a solid leg-spinner. Lahiru Thirimanne and Dilshan Munaweera (20k) are expected to get bids in, if not necessarily for those bids to be followed up by actual playing time. Thirimanne has shown admirable calm and technique coming in at the lower order, and Dilshan Munaweera was top scorer in the inaugral SLPL, if not particularly exhilarating in the WT20.
I don’t imagine spinners to be in demand that much, as there are plenty of local players available to fill that role. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka’s young spin prodigy Akila Dananjaya goes in at $20k, alongside Rangana Herath who is coming off the form of his career in 2012 at £100k. Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna and Sachithra Senanayake are all up for grabs as well. They might not attract bids but still stand a chance of getting in on the action if injuries and unavailabilities hit.
Like a lot of people, I have a pretty dim view of the IPL and its foibles. However ever since ITV got the rights to broadcast it in the UK on free-to-air television, I have looked forward to it, although I do lose interest during the middle stages when the matches come thick and fast in quantity if not in quality or importance. Like a lot of cricket fans i n this country, I don’t have a SKY subscription, so usually have to make do with dodgy Star Cricket streams on the internet or the mercurial Test Match Special commentary on the radio. ITV4 draws in a lot of viewers with its IPL coverage (also Gladstone Small gets so few television appearances these days). For all the money that grass-roots cricket in this country has benefited from SKY money, you can’t help but think that the ECB are missing a trick here by denying the opportunity for new cricket fans to get into the game by not giving rights to England matches to a free-to-air broadcaster, but that is for another blog rant.
Anyway from an SL point of view I am undecided whether I want the likes of Chandimal, Thirimanne, Eranga and Dananjaya to play in the IPL. On the one hand it would be nice to see them play and learn from the best players in the world, but on the other too much exposure to T20 cricket could ruin their technique which is a drum I have been banging for ages. Although players like Kushal Perera, Thisara Perera and Dilshan Munaweera will excel in the limited over formats.