The IPL auctions have started resembling those 100-crore Bollywood hits. Last weekend’s Season 9 player sale further blurred the thin line that separates T20 cricket and entertainment. The Sunday auction, like the much-awaited Friday release, attracted eyeballs. It also got endlessly hash-tagged. Like the Bollywood biggies, the IPL auction, too, had an overseas market and a stale script. There were expected surprises, illogical sub-plots and several overnight heroes — those overnight millionaires — smiling from newspapers’ front pages the next day. Stories of rags to riches and the triumph of the underdog abounded.
The last eight IPL editions have shown that auction-day leaps of faith by franchise owners have mostly proved irrational. Last year, Kolkata Knight Riders bought a 20-year-old mystery spinner K.C. Cariappa for Rs 2.40 crore. The mystery deepened as he was hardly fielded during the season and his contract wasn’t renewed. The young boy was again on sale this time and went for a bargain rate. The game’s sharpest brains have tried to get a grip of the monster called T20 but spectacularly failed. Several success formulae were floated but all failed the test of time. They first called the IPL a tournament for the young and eager only to change tack after nearly 40 veterans started dominating match days. The myth about batsmen winning matches has also been short-lived.
T20’s success stems from its unpredictability. Looking for trends and searching for success mantras is a futile exercise. This is a format where 10 batsmen share 20 overs between them. For a game overtly favouring batsmen, T20 is a slug-fest between men with large chunks of wood in their hands. The most successful IPL bowler, the ever-so-reliable Lasith Malinga, going by the nearly 200 matches he has played, averages 1.4 wickets a game. That means it’s tough to get batsmen out and even those with modest skills can chase down big totals. Like the auction, T20 too is a lottery. Like the 100-crore hits, they are entertaining but illogical.