Could The IPL Undertake The American Draft System To Enhance Competition?

For a lot of cricketing hipsters, a mention of the IPL will result in a shake of the head and a roll of the eyes. It started in 2008 and has gone onto be very successful on a commercial and a sporting stage. In order to buy the best players, the IPL’s bidding system to buy their players, has attracted some of the biggest cricketers from around the world such as AB DeVilliers, Chris Gayle and David Warner.

So why does it not always get the approval from all cricketing fans? The extra and very over-the-top commercial part of the IPL contributes to the cringe factor. After nearly every over, the commentators will mention a sponsor such as ‘Yes Bank’ or ‘Vodafone’. Another big reason which has led to fans not approving of the tournament, is the scandals and controversies involved in the tournament – match fixing suspicions, corruption and suspension of teams.

The league consists of eight teams with Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and  Mumbai Indians being the most successful with three other teams having won it once. The IPL works differently when looking at assembling a team. There are five different methods when acquiring a player: annual auction, signing uncapped players, swapping players, signing domestic players and finally, signing replacements for injured players.

Is competition divided in two?
The problem with some of these methods is that teams with more money can sign the higher valued players compared to other teams during the auctions. This is fairly similar to football where clubs like Real Madrid have a better chance of signing players compared to Borussia Dortmund. This can always lead to a gap in competition as the richer teams are more likely to gain more success. Teams such as Dehli Daredevils and even Rajasthan Royals may see their chances of success dry up. Although the Royals were inaugural winners of the IPL, they haven’t managed to emulate that success. The Rajasthan Royals team which had won in 2008 was a team that did not attain a star studded line up but still managed to win it, a result which was a surprise to most, but led to a lot of praise.

Could an NFL or NBA draft system work?
An approach the IPL could take or at least trial, is the draft approach the NFL and NBA use. The NFL draft use an approach where the worst placed team from the previous season gets the first pick during the draft, whilst the winners of the Super Bowl get the last pick from colleges. The NBA draft differs slightly to the NFL – instead of having the worst placed team getting the first pick, they choose out of a lottery to see who gets first pick.

The NFL draft system could shake things up in the IPL, which to be fair, is long overdue. But this could also increase the competition. For example, if Kings XI Punjab (2016 bottom placed team) would get first choice on a player who has not been retained in 2017, such as Dale Steyn or whoever the highest valued player is, it would allow Kings XI to have a better placed team for 2017. This would make them more competitive but without stopping Sunrisers (2016 winners) from losing out on too much. The same could be done with uncapped players, whoever is rated the highest within the uncapped players pool could get chosen first by Kings XI or they can have the option to pass.

Are the players only looking at the money?

Dale Steyn was released by The Sunrisers. Where could he be heading towards in the 2017 IPL?

The problem with this process is that for the top quality, non-retained players, the bids and the contracts offered by the bottom placed team may not be worth much or what the players expect. Certain players may be more money driven and therefore would not settle for a contract that is worth less compared to previous contracts. This could happen to a few teams that can’t afford the players demand and therefore would lead back to the richer teams taking the better players.

Uncapped and domestic players could be key:
The ideal way to apply the NFL draft system to the IPL would be with uncapped and domestic players. The reason being putting the best domestic/uncapped player with the worst placed IPL team of the previous year could lead to chances for the player to seriously impress in the IPL. This is because they are likely to get a lot of chances to perform in a team that failed in the previous year and may be looking for fresh options and even gamble on unknown players. Furthermore, there is less chance of an uncapped player to demand a substantial amount in their contract compared to the proven international players, they are more likely to take what they are offered.

Amongst all the criticism, the IPL is still a very entertaining tournament and like all sports, will always conjure a debate and conversation as well as record breaking scores. The entertainment provided by some of the best cricketers on earth has led to an increase in interest in this sport. What would be better would be to see the unpredictable happen more often than not?

There is nothing better in sport than the thrills and spills that come with a surprise result, unless of course it happens against the team you support!