The room was draped in a dark blue shade as the colourful sheets covered the otherwise drab tables which helped dress the enormous auditorium with a sense of beckoning. The paddles with the logos of its teams were neatly arranged on the tables, accompanied with glasses and notebooks scattered for the guests who would soon fill the room and start the occasion. If one looked at it gently from the door, one would assume it would be a simple business conference with dignified men and women in suits filling the room. Yet, this hall was set for something bigger. This navy blue room located on a busy road in Bengaluru was meant to host the Mega IPL auction.
The IPL auction, which loosely translates into spending money that any ordinary person can only dream of hearing in their everyday life is an event that happens every year, almost every year. But, this time it was different. This time the auction was meant to be larger as more players, including the likes of David Warner, Ravichandra Ashwin, and Jos Butler, among others, were all up for grabs. Yes, we still did not have a Virat Kohli or MS Dhoni at the table, as their respective teams retained them up and didn’t put them to the sharks, but nonetheless, this auction proved to be one of the most dramatic, surprising, and even shocking at some parts.
The league that has been marred with multiple controversies, but still manages to carry on with the determination of Donald Trump trying to prove his innocence about the Capitol attacks, welcomes two new teams: The Gujarat Titans and the Lucknow Super Giants.
12:00 noon: The room starts to fill with people who only dine at the Soho house and go on European vacations. All dressed in their ironed clothes start to take their seats at tables whose sheets coordinate with the colour of their teams. Soon enough, the English auctioneer takes his place and with a wide grin declares the auction open- the players are about to go under the hammer.
12:10 pm: The auctioneer calls a guest to the stage, an employee of one of the many sponsors IPL has, and he starts taking out the bails, and names are drawn. The auctioneer squints his eyes to look at the bail as he reads out the name that will probably be familiar to anyone who has watched cricket or just read sports newspapers in India- Shikhar Dhawan.
“Whoosh, whoosh” in a matter of minutes, the paddles start to go up. Firstly slowly, as the team managers look at each other coyly, hide their faces with their hands or with their laptops to discuss in hushed tones, and then the paddles start to go faster. Soon enough, Dhawan’s price, which started at 2 crore INR start to climb up to numbers that a middle-class family can never even hope to see in their lifetimes.
“Dhawan once, Dhawan twice, Dhawan thrice.”
“Bam” and down comes to the hammer after the auctioneer enthusiastically looks around the room to make sure no one else is bidding, and there goes the first player to Punjab. And just like that, the value and Dhawan’s cricket club, for the time being, has been decided.
After a quick round of applause and some disappointed looks from people who lost out on this Indian batter, the auction continues. “Pluck, pluck” one by one the bail gets picked up, the names are read and the fate of the players is decided by the people sitting in thousand dollars outfits.
The barrier of 5 crores starts to break, as players like Warner, Quinton De Cock, and the highlight till now- Shreyas Iyer enter the foray. Iyer gets picked for a whopping 12.25 crore INR by the purple-coloured team that has Shahrukh Khan’s son and daughter gracing the table. Perhaps their presence made more impact in the media than the freshly plucked Indian players whose lives are about to be changed.
The direction of the auction and fortunately so for the country has remained quite simple. Every team seems to be more interested in picking fresh Indian talent than the heavy-weight international players. These uncapped talents, who have perhaps never even played in grounds with grasses cut to the T, or with players who have lifted the world cup, now get picked not just to play in one of the biggest cricketing tournaments in the world, but also for money that are north of a crore.
The front runners of the IPL seem to be set out from the start. Kolkata, Punjab, Delhi, and the two new teams seem to be the most active. It almost seems Delhi out of every other team is determined to get every single player that leaves the jute bag and goes under the hammer. The bald man with round glasses who sits right at the center of the Delhi Capital’s table wearing a freshly washed and ironed grey suit lifts the paddle with more vigor than anyone else in the room. From bidding for Iyer to going after Tewatia, Delhi has tried to grab them all.
In the more passive part, Hyderabad, Chennai, and the Mumbai Indians- the only team who seems to be following the COVID protocol of wearing masks have remained quiet. Mumbai, whose table is blessed with the presence of one of the richest families in the world- the Ambanis however, soon enough kept their paddle risen to snap the biggest buy-in IPL auction 2022- Ishan Kishan for 15 crore INR. With this pick, the precedent was once again reiterated that young Indians is where IPL is at, Kishan with this large sum had trumped the likes of Warner, Butler, Stokes, and Ashwin.
The bidding war for Kishan was, however, just setting the set for other young players who were snapped up soon enough for sums that were beyond reason. It is only at the IPL that players like Suresh Raina, Steve Smith, and Miller were passed away as unsold, but Harpreet Brar, Deepak Hooda, Deepak Chahar, and even Riyan Parag who had played 11 innings last IPL and scored 93 runs for Rajasthan Royals, faced no problems in inciting thrilling wars between the teams.
One such battle for a young player which led to unexpected circumstances was for the Sri Lankan Wanindu Hasaranga.
The bid started with Punjab, Delhi, and Mumbai battling it out. Akash Ambani, who sat in a white shirt right beside his Nita Ambani kept his paddle up to suggest he wasn’t going to go down without a fight, but at the end had to bow down. The bidding rushed: 300 lakhs, 320 retorts Delhi, 340, 360, 400….. the auctioneers moves his eyes from one team to another as both are ready for battle “damp, bam, whoop” and then came the fall……
The team managers get up in shock, somewhere off-camera a glass is heartbreaking, the camera pans to Suhana Khan as she looks shocked, while Mrs. Ambani shouts to get a medic. As the camera slowly pans to the scene that is inciting such reactions there on the floor lies the cheery auctioneer. He lies face-first on the floor, flat, motionless. The room is filled with chaos and the transmission is cut. Certainly a turn no one was expecting.
After an extended break, posts on Twitter for a speedy recovery, and time for people to create memes on the auction, the event is back on. However, this time the auctioneer, who is now fine but resting, has been replaced by Charu Sharma. A popular Indian presenter who has often been the butt of many jokes.
“The show must go on” No, no one insensitively said this, yet this is exactly what happened. Business resumed as usual as more players started getting snapped up. Water was drunk and paddles were lifted again.
The auction spurned more surprises with players who do not see eye to eye- Ashwin and Jos Butler ending up in the same team- Rajasthan Royals and Krunal Pandya and Deepak Hooda to share the locker room of Lucknow. Both these pairs have had their feuds quite publicized and yet, just as the nature of IPL is, they now have to hug and make up to play for the same team.
The auction also saw Faf du Plessis go to Bangalore from his much-loved team Chennai, much to the despair of Chennai fans, and Yuzvendra Chahal bidding adieu to his alma mater Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The auction has now sped up, Charu Sharma, unlike his previous counterpart, believes in wasting no time. The sun has set, Saturday night has started to shine on, as the auction continues. Sharma gives each player 10 seconds before they get passed on if no reaction is incited from the public at large.
The IPL event doesn’t end the same day. With many more players, the auction is a two-day affair. But, after two days of slamming the hammer, screaming numbers that aren’t palpable to middle-class households, and money spent north of 100 crores and the lives of young players made.
4:30 pm: A deafening applause reverberates through the auction room on its second day. No, the auction hasn’t just commenced, it has been more than a couple of hours since the auction started. The applause is something even more exciting. As the team managers get up from their seats, down walks the once fallen hero who has now been resurrected like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. The English auctioneer is back. With a smile on his face, a determined walk, he reaches the stage and faces the people who had witnessed his dramatic fall. After a few jokes on the fall itself, he takes up the hammer, and “bam” the auction restarts as more money is blown.