MUMBAI,Jan 28(TOI): Until now, there were just rumours. Now, it seems that the IPL players' auction on January 8 and 9 could well have been rigged. Or so it would seem if you look at the angry letter that Mumbai Indians have shot off to every member of the IPL's governing council, demanding an explanation for the last-minute changes to the auction process. They have categorically stated that the changes were not only unjustified but also unacceptable.
The three-page letter, a copy of which is with TOI, points out that most franchises were taken by surprise when they were told about a change in the rules in the January 6 briefings, a day before the auction.
In the first briefing on December 17, the franchises were told that the players would be arranged in pre-defined sets. The plan, they were informed, would be to start with the marquee players and then move to sets of same specialization (meaning: batsmen, bowlers, allrounders etc).
Critically, they were told that "the order of all these sets will be determined by (a) random draw that will take place in the auction room."
At 5 pm on the eve of the auctions, though, the franchises received another email - just two hours before the GC was to take them through another briefing. It said: "An updated version of the auction briefing (has been sent). The only changes are in paragraphs 37 and 38. Please read as paragraph 38 will impact your strategy."
The MI letter says "the so called updated version of the auction briefing reads as follows: The final sentence of paragraph 18 is to be deleted. The sets will be presented to the Auction in order of the auction list (which need not have same speciality players in the same set)".
MI claim that the 'amended' rule resulted in a fundamental change to the auction process as "selection of sets at random" was substituted by a 'pre-decided order of the auction list'."
The primary purpose of deciding the order of auction (whether for subsequent sets or players within sets) through a random draw in the auction room in presence of bidders was to ensure transparency and a level-playing field. In the changed scenario, certain individuals or franchises could have been privy to the exact sequence of the auction which would have allowed them to plan better. More significantly, if they got this information earlier, they could have waited for the right moment to bid for the right player.
Therefore, MI says "Any last-minute change can have justification if, and only if, strong justifiable and emergent reasons can be demonstrated to be present" and adds further "we see a complete absence of such reason or justification. Kindly let us know how and whose instance these changes were introduced."
It should be mentioned here that Chennai Super Kings owner N Srinivasan sat as a member of the GC at the auctions even as his team bid for players and, as TOI had reported on January 10, franchises had already started murmuring that they were unhappy about last-minute changes.
Srinivasan's family owns the franchise even as he happens to be a GC member, BCCI secretary, its president-elect and president of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA). Interestingly, CSK successfully managed to bid for all premier Tamil Nadu cricketers.
TOI had also questioned GC chairman Chirayu Amin about the same on January 10, to which the answer was a meek one: "We always ensure complete transparency. If any franchise feels otherwise, they are free to mention it."
The agenda of the meetings were approved, the quorum and minutes were recorded, the basis - if any - on which order of sets in auction list was determined. Then, MI's question to the GC is "Who authorized to amend these rules and what was the source of such authority?"
If Amin says there was complete transparency, then why are these questions coming out of the closet now?