Thursday, 28 February 2008

Ben on...bang for bucks

So, the Kiwis in the IPL attracted the following bids:

Brendon McCullum: US$700,000
Jacob Oram: US$675,000
Daniel Vettori: US$625,000
Stephen Fleming: US$350,000
Scott Styris: US$175,000

What do we think about this?

Based on the last couple of weeks, it is hard to argue with McCullum getting the highest valuation of the New Zealanders. When he gets going he is the most exciting player in the NZ team. McCullum is heading for Kolkata (which you might know as Calcutta), which as a city has seen better days, though the franchise could hardly be more hip, owned by Shahrukh Khan and friends. As you probably know, Shahrukh Khan is HUGE in Bollywood, and Bollywood is HUGE. And the Kolkata team is packed with movie stars: Chris Gayle, Ricky Ponting, Shoaib Akhtar, Ishant Sharma. McCullum was bought for nearly twice as much as Ponting, even though Ponting is twice the batsmen that McCullum is. However, with absolutely no disrespect to Ponting, McCullum's vicious, primeval heaves into the stands are twice as entertaining as Ponting's rather clinical skill. McCullum is the second most highly priced non-Indian in the Kolkata team and IPL rules state that only four non-Indians may play. With Ponting, Gayle and David Hussey fighting it out for the premier batting slots and Akhtar and Gul competing to partner Sharma, McCullum could be the first selected for every game.

Jacob Oram is of course a great 50-over all-rounder, but he has so far proven himself to be an exceptional 20-over batsman. If anyone is worth their money, Oram is worth his. However, with Chennai (you may know it as Madras) having spent their small bowling budget on Muralitaran, Oram may be called on to bowl a bit too, even though his bowling just doesn't seem suited to the format. If he bats up at 6 or 7, he may be wasted. However, if he gets a chance, he could prove to be a real achiever in a team with a lot of big names.

In contrast, Vettori is as good a twenty20 bowler as you can get, but with the bat he hasn't kept up the standards he has set for the longer formats. Even so, his bowling results have been so good, he would be first bowling choice in any team. However, IPL teams are of course constrained in how many foreigners may play, and there is a lot of competition for bowling spots in the Delhi team. I'm surprised that the Delhi bidders chose to build a team with so much overlap with one of their marquee players, but I suspect things didn't quite go to plan, for example, I don't think they had initially expected to end up with Glenn McGrath.

Stephen Fleming a measly $350,000? For NZ's best batsman and the world's best captain? Actually, that is probably as much as he could have expected. It also emphasises just how well McCullum, Oram and Vettori have done. The retirees are not necessarily going for a lot, McGrath and Warne for example. Also, it is unlikely that a franchise would want to use Fleming as a captain; most have gone with locals (Dhoni will captain Chennai). And quite frankly his twenty20 batting has yet to light up the sky. However, with no other cricket to distract him, perhaps he could turn his enormous talent on. With Hayden and Hussey engaged in Pakistan for the beginning of the tournament, Fleming has a good chance to secure himself a position in the team.

Scott Styris retired from test cricket for his $175,000. With his inevitable drop in the NZC contract ranking and lost match fees, along with lost English county opportunities and you have to wonder if it was worth it. His valuation may not have been helped by his relative failure in the England ODI series, but he still went for a bargain basement price given his abilities as an all-rounder. However, Styris suffers for the same reason McCullum benefits, Styris is just not sexy. He's a good batsman, but shows no pizzazz, and his bowling, while effective, is boooring. He will do much better than his cash valuation, but he isn't going to excite anyone – and who would notice with Gilchrist, Afridi, Symonds etc. in the Hyderabad team.

You'd bet that Shane Bond must be pretty disappointed in his agent. Signed up for the lesser tournament, playing against has-beens, banned from international and country cricket and probably earning no more than he would have got in the IPL.

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