Why IPL franchises pay big money to Australian players

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Why do Australian players get paid more money than cricketers from other countries in the Indian Premier League (IPL)?

In the IPL auction earlier this week, for example, Australian fast bowlers Mitchell Starc (Rs 24.75 crores) and Pat Cummins (Rs 20.50 crores) together attracted bids totaling Rs 45.25 crores – nearly half the total budget of a team. Even a relative rookie, Spencer Johnson, received Rs 10 crores. Meanwhile, South African pacer Gerald Coetzee got Rs 5 crores, and the World Cup’s third-highest wicket-taker, Dilshan Madhushanka of Sri Lanka, received only Rs 4 crores. Probably even more surprising was that Wanindu Hasaranga went for just Rs 1.5 crores.

This inclination is baffling when you note that no Australian, except David Warner and Shane Watson, has had a telling impact on the IPL in the last few years. In the last three seasons, only Glenn Maxwell had a good season. The big bucks spent on Australian stars didn’t yield adequate returns on investment. Last year, Cameron Green underperformed for Mumbai Indians, while Mitchell Marsh had a quiet season for Delhi Capitals. Cummins was modest for the Kolkata Knight Riders when he last played in 2022. And yet they are favoured in almost every auction.

The reason behind this, I would argue, is Australia’s track record in ICC events. Because Australia have won so many ICC tournaments, it’s presumed that their players perform better under pressure in comparison to players from most other countries. It helped that the auction was held within a month of Australia winning the World Cup.

Along with Australia’s international record, the other factor that could explain franchises’ proclivity is that the brand value of the Aussies is considered second only to the Indian stars. They are faces who can be marketed and have panIndia appeal. Warner, for example, is only second to Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma in terms of social media appeal. Cummins or Starc are bigger brands in India than Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow. It is safe to assume that every KKR marketing campaign will include Starc in almost equal measure as Shreyas Iyer, and Sunrisers Hyderabad will perhaps use Cummins more than skipper Aiden Markram to market the brand.

Resumes with ICC tournament wins and pan-India brand appeal have given the Australians an advantage over others. But do these buys really translate into performances?

Cummins, as mentioned earlier, did not do too well for KKR. Chennai Super Kings had no notable Australians in their ranks when they won the 2023 title. Gujarat Titans, winners in 2022, had only one Australian in the playing XI, Matthew Wade, who contributed just 157 runs with the bat. It won’t be easy for Cummins and Starc either. Even with their vast international experience, playing with these price tags will be insanely tough. Every failure, and it is certain to happen in T20 cricket, will be amplified, and trolls will be waiting to jump in. Already, social media is abuzz that every delivery that Starc will bowl will cost KKR Rs 7.44 lakh.

Except for Starc, the majority of the KKR star bowlers are spinners. Sunil Narine, Varun Chakaravarthy and Suyash Sharma are key to their success. So, it will be interesting to see what conditions are on offer at the Eden Gardens. The kind of track that was given for the Australia-South Africa World Cup semi-final might not suit Starc, and pace and bounce could nullify their spin trinity.

While it is all good to break records and show off the IPL’s most expensive buy ever, it is also a crown of thorns that such monies bring in their wake. There is a very thin line between bravado and foolishness. We now need to wait till April 2024 to see what defines the KKR call for Starc or the SRH spend for Cummins.

Are these the greatest buys in IPL history? Or the most expensive blunders? For the moment though, more with the Test series against Pakistan going to plan, Starc and Cummins couldn’t have planned for a better Christmas.”.



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