A few years ago one night a colleague received a call from a slightly distraught cricketer, a young neo-rich IPL star who was miles away from playing for India. A few months before that, he had been picked for an obscene amount in the IPL auction. Following the unexpected windfall, the young slugger had bought a house, a fancy car and vacationed abroad. None of these expenses affected his bank balance.
The boy from a very modest family shared his unique problem with his reporter friend. He was unsure of the cost of luxury, he was unaware of the possibilities of spending big and he overestimated the conscience of a cricket writer, and he posed an innocent question: “Bhaiyya, yeh private jet kitne ka aata hai. (Brother, how much does a private jet cost).” The reporter shattered his fantasy and advised him to focus on his game. The race did not go as planned. The effort put into the field did not live up to the ambition. He is still a second stringer, an official who jumps from team to team.
Now, he is grown up, happily married and a father. Wiser after being on the circuit for years, he now laughs at his teenage naivete.
The private jet investigation is an inside joke between the player and the reporter. The huge success, with a decade-long IPL career, these days warns youngsters that the high of being among the top earners is a dream. He says it makes you feel like the world is at your feet, life was easy and the great heights of cricket were just a hop away.
In most auctions there are some purchases that are difficult to explain. On days like today, many walk away with a lot of cash beyond their credentials. Sometimes it’s a stroke of luck that decides whether a backwater cricketer can dream of private jets or stare at planes flying over his town.
Kolkata Knight Riders Trainer Brendon McCullum he is easily the first IPL superstar. From making a hundred in the inaugural season opener to being the most wanted manager on the T20 circuit, she’s seen it all.
Just the other day, on a radio breakfast show at his home in Christchurch, he was explaining the night shift on auction day this weekend. He is an important member of the KKR think tank. His input will be vital for Kolkata as all teams will be looking to amass players who will stay with them for a decade. McCullum calls this the ‘reset auction’. With over 500 players in the group, a fight is expected.
With a dodgy wifi connection at home, he has decided to land at the studio at 7:30 p.m., that’s noon in India. And by the time he leaves, it will be 3am Sunday in New Zealand.
McCullum, while explaining the IPL auction to his co-host, says it’s like “the Karaka sales”, the market for New Zealand bloodstocks. He goes on to clarify: “It’s not like the horses, the players are not parading in the ring. But his photos and statistics do appear on the giant screen.”
The experienced IPL auction oracle hints that skill is not the only factor that decides the price of a player. The sequence of players under the hammer – featured players first, followed by goalkeepers and batsmen – is an important factor in player pricing. In case two teams with a similar strategy are looking at the same player, bidding wars are triggered. Our man with ‘private plane’ ambitions was one of those lucky guys who was being targeted by three teams.
Suresh Raina, another IPL stalwart, says that undeserving players can get lucky just once. The IPL, according to him, has become smart. After a season, the chalk falls to the side and the cheese is refrigerated, wrapped in silver foil to keep it fresh.
The price tags of the greats are not public knowledge; the official amount of the contract is nothing more than a conservative estimate of its real value. Dhoni and Kohli are too big to haggle. You may need riot police to check on the owners if they are at stake.
It is not a surprise to those who diligently follow the IPL but Ravindra Jadeja was retained for Rs 1 crore more than Dhoni. He signed up for Rs 16 crore, and happens to be the top earner at IPL 2022, along with rohit sharma Y Rishabh pants.
In the past, Jadeja was a rookie. She was part of Shane Warne’s IPL winning team Rajasthan Royals. Warne referred to the young beginner as ‘Rockstar’.
Each IPL season would add several zeros to your bank balance. After a dream international season, the all-rounder of all formats had agreed to an interview at a country house on the outskirts of his birthplace, Jamnagar, in Gujarat.
He entered the estate in his Audi A4 which cost more than half a crore. The car was monogrammed with a retro look from the time of kings and maharajas. Written on it was a stylized Ravi. The curvy tail of the “R” lovingly cradled “AVI”.
Jadeja entered in style. She whistled and her dog Rocky came running. Her two horses Ganga and Kesar seemed to know that her master would come to them. He also kept birds and cats as pets. As he played with Ganga and stroked her forehead, he was asked if there were any pets in his home when he was a child. With a wide smile he said: “Apne khane ka thikana nahi tha, inn logon ko kahan paalta? (We didn’t know where our meals came from, how would he have had pets?)”
Jadeja was extravagant but not delusional. Initially, it seemed like her skills and her salary were polar opposites, but over time she closed the gap.
Once, during a losing streak, he had approached me again for an interview. Jadeja disagreed, he was depressed. “Even if you write good things about me, I wouldn’t get into the India team. For that I had to score runs and take wickets,” was his terse comment.
Jadeja knew that to dream of private jets, you needed to be aware of earthly realities.
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National Sports Writer