The player auctions for the 2012 Indian Premier League (IPL) have concluded and... as ever... there are enormous player fees, controversies and a plethora of debates to keep the cricketing world busy until the tournament itself kicks off on April 4, when the Chennai Super Kings defend their turf against the Mumbai Indians.
By far the biggest piece of news so far is the transfer of Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (formerly of the Kochi Tuskers Kerala) to IPL powerhouses Chennai Super Kings, for a staggering $2 million fee. Other players who commanded impressive sums of money were Indian seamer Vinay Kumar (to Royal Challengers Bangalore for $1 million), Sri Lankan batsman Mahela Jayawardene (to Delhi Daredevils for $1.4 million) and New Zealand wicketkeeper/batsman Brendon McCullum (to Kolkata Knight Riders for $950,000).
The sight of gigantic sums of money paid to single cricketers during these auctions is scarcely anything new. The tournament, backed by a degree of financial muscle that only football can truly exceed, has thrown up at least one or two big-name signings every year.
Consider, for example, the 2011 auctions... Indian batsman Gautam Gambhir's services were sold to Kolkata Knight Riders for a staggering $2.4 million; his all-rounder compatriot Yusuf Pathan joined him for a no less significant $2.1 million, while more compatriots - Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh and a host of other domestic and foreign players were snapped up for over a million dollars apiece!
The question one is forced to ask when confronted with such sums is - are the players really worth that amount? Particularly since a franchise player called up for national team duty while the IPL is going on must (usually!) heed that call. Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga's case (he turned down a call-up to the Sri Lankan team set to tour England, in order to turn out for the Mumbai Indians) is, hopefully, an aberration.
Let us examine Jadeja's case.
In the 2011 edition, while playing for the Kochi Tuskers, Jadeja, 23, scored a relatively paltry 283 runs in 12 innings. His highest score was 47 and his strike rate 124.12. In contrast, everyone from Chris Gayle (608 runs at a strike rate of 183.69), Virender Sehwag (424 runs at a strike rate of 176.67) and M.S. Dhoni (393 runs at a strike rate of 159.11), among a whole lot of others, outscored Jadeja... making his mega-money move to Chennai something of a surprise. His recent performances for the national team have been even less impressive.
Jadeja returned 1/16 from his three overs in the recently concluded second T20 international against Australia. He was significantly less economical in the first game between the sides, leaking 23 runs from his two overs and scoring just 7 with the bat. His T20 international record reads 72 runs from 8 innings, at a strike rate of 85.71... surely not enough to justify a $2 million price tag?