With the humongous sums of money which exchange hands during the IPL auction, it’s fair to say that ‘value for money’ and ‘bargain’ very rarely enter the lexicon of the franchises once they have their chequebook and pen in hand.
Even so, the eye-popping amount that the Delhi Daredevils splashed out on Yuvraj Singh will have given even the most carefree of spenders something of a headache.
Rs 16 crore is the equivalent of $2,500,000 or £1,600,000 – not bad work if you can get it. This figure cements the 33-year-old’s position as the most expensive signing in IPL history but it did little to elevate Delhi in the title markets.
For that kind of investment, the Daredevils naturally would have been hoping for significant reward. But, alas, once again Yuvraj was found wanting on cricket’s most glittering stage. His 2015 IPL return of 248 runs from 13 innings came at an average of 19.07 – or, perhaps more pertinently, $13,347 or £8,616 a run.
And it’s not as if Yuvraj doesn’t have previous either. In the 2014 competition he was snapped up by Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 14 crore, but could only deliver 376 runs at 34.18; a solid enough record for the ordinary man, but not for the world’s most expensive cricketer.
Indeed, his overall IPL record looks like this:
98 matches, 2099 runs, average 25.28, strike rate 129.88
For a man who has enjoyed such a fantastic career for his country, a player who has scored more than 8000 runs for India in ODIs, this is well below-par.
A Daring Signing
It was a brave decision to splash out a record fee for a player who has such an ordinary recent IPL return. And what makes it all the more galling for the Daredevils is that the most impressive performers with the bat in this year’s competition – the likes of David Warner (who went on to score 300 runs more than Yuvraj), Lendl Simmons and AB De Villiers – could have been purchased for a fraction of the price.
Of course, none of these players offer the status – nor the commercial riches – of Yuvraj, one of India’s best-loved cricketers and most marketable sportsmen. Thanks to his phenomenal performances for his country in the short format of the game, ‘Yuvvie’ is a real favourite with the public.
His signing came as the Delhi Daredevils embarked on a very public campaign to win over new fans after sterile showings in IPL’s of recent years. After a disappointing 2014, the notion of purchasing a player of Yuvraj’s stature was something of a coup and made commercial sense – but ultimately he would be judged on the return on investment he offered out in the middle. And that was where Yuvraj was found wanting.
But securing his signature was also a stroke of the ego for the Daredevils, and another example of the casual ‘one-upmanship’ that prevails during the auction process. It’s still patently obvious that players are signed for their ‘name’ rather than what they bring to the party by many of the IPL franchises.
And yet the blueprint of the Mumbai Indians of signing proven IPL performers at sensible prices came up trumps once again. Lasith Malinga and Mitchell McClenaghan were innovative and dangerous with their approach to seam bowling in the T20 format, Kieran Pollard, Lendl Simmons and captainRohit Sharma raised hell with the bat, and old hand Harbhajan Singh offered the kind of all-round contribution you’d expect.
And all at a combined price of little more than that of Yuvraj.
As sports clubs around the world have found to their cost time and time again, signing a box office player does not always guarantee rewards; that’s what in-form players deliver. Delhi will do well to remember that at next year’s auction.
And it remains to be seen whether Yuvraj will command such an extortionate fee next time around. But this is the IPL – the home of big egos and bigger bank balances.