Players’ auction set to mark fresh beginning for IPL

Plagued by allegations of financial irregularities and many other controversies, the Indian Premier League is all set for a fresh start on Saturday with a high-profile two-day auction of 350 cricketers for the cash-rich Twenty20 event’s fourth edition.

The highly successful tournament, which has been a money spinner for the BCCI, is set to feature 10 teams and a whopping 74 matches this season starting April 8 — just six days after the ODI World Cup in the sub-continent.

Although the event has been mired in controversies ever since its inception in 2008, it was hit by some major furores last year.

It’s brash but dynamic Commissioner Lalit Modi was sacked after a string of allegations of financial irregularities and two of the franchises — Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals — are locked in a court battle with the BCCI to stay in the league after being suspended for, what the Baord called, ownership issues.

Modi, who has taken refuge in the UK citing security fears, has been accused of favouring his kith and kin in the award of franchises and taking kickbacks in various deals related to the IPL. However, he has vehemently denied the allegations.

Add to this, the ownership row involving one of the two new franchises — Kochi and Pune.

The Kerala team’s stakeholders kept squabbling over the ownership pattern and the matter could be resolved only after the BCCI asked them to either work out a solution or risk being booted out of event.

Such was the state of affairs till the end of last year that the league looked in complete disarray

In fact, the players’ auction which was originally scheduled to be held in November last year, had to be postponed due to the never-ending furores.

Having weathered the storm to some extent, the IPL is set to roll with the first round of bidding and buying taking place here tomorrow.

Former West Indies captain Brian Lara and England’s Ashes hero pacer James Anderson are among the top cricketers who will go under the hammer and are among the 21 with the highest reserve price of USD 400,000 for a three-year contract.

Other top international cricketers in the hunt include Australians Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee, England’s Kevin Pietersen, South Africans Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, and New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori — all of whom were released by their respective franchises.

There are those who have been retained as well and that small list of 12 includes Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings), Sachin Tendulkar (Mumba Indians) and Shane Warne and Shane Watson (Rajasthan Royals).

In fact, only Chennai, the 2010 champions, and runners-up Mumbai Indians have retained the full compliment of players.

By retaining four players, MI and CSK are each left with only USD 4.5 million to spend either in the auction or in buying Ranji players outside the auction.

Rajasthan Royals will have USD 5.9 million available to spend while Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore will each have a balance of USD 7.2 million available. The remaining franchises have the full USD 9 million available to spend.

Pakistani cricketers will not be a part of the event for the third season in a row.

There were some high-profile pullouts as well with the likes of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson opting to rest and recover after playing through a gruelling international schedule.

Veteran Indian spinner Anil Kumble also opted out and will now be seen in a mentoring role for his franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who along with Pietersen were the costliest players on the IPL roster after being bought for USD 1.55 million by the Chennai Super Kings in 2009, has also decided against playing in the event.

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