Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Demand or not?

For the first eight editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL), there was one name, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, which every franchise owner wanted to get associated with. However, with Indian cricket’s super boss N Srinivasan ruling the roost, it was nearly impossible for anyone to even entertain the thought.


That was until IPL-8 in 2015.

Things have changed rapidly after the end of last edition of the popular league. Srinivasan no longed calls the shots in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Chennai Super Kings stands suspended and Dhoni is no more the poster boy of Indian team, having already handed over reins of the Test team to Virat Kohli.

The other team suspended for two years is Rajasthan Royals for their owner, Raj Kundra’s, involvement in the IPL spot-fixing scandal.

So, when the two new franchises — Sanjiv Goenka’s New Rising Pune and Intex Rajkot — meet on Tuesday to pick five players of their choice, the one question that would be in everybody’s mind is: “Will Dhoni command the same price he used to before the allegations of spot-fixing in IPL?”

The answer would lie with the Pune franchise, who will have the advantage of picking the first player by virtue of being the lowest bidder by shelling out Rs 16 crore to the BCCI in comparison to Intex’s Rs 10 crore.

There are many other big names like Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Steven Smith, Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson, Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina who would be up for grabs.

However, one thing is certain. It would be impossible for Goenka’s franchise to ignore Dhoni in their first call.

Moreoever, the Rajkot franchisee owners would be tempted to buy local hero Jadeja ahead of various big stars. Jadeja’s stocks have risen tremendously after his success in the recently-concluded Test series against South Africa.

Like any other team in the IPL, the two new franchises will have a salary cap of Rs 66 crore to buy their players. At the draft, that salary cap will reduce as they start to purchase the players for their teams. If they go for all five picks, they would be spending Rs 39 crore. That means, they will have a remaining purse of Rs 27 crore going into the players’ auction in Bengaluru on February 6, 2016.

A franchise can pick a maximum of four capped Indian players at the draft, in accordance with the existing retention rule of BCCI.

Dilemma called Dhoni
With Justice RM Lodha set to submit his report to the Supreme Court in the coming week, the Pune team would certainly be debating over picking Dhoni, who was the CSK captain and whose name, many believe, could figure in the final report. Ask BCCI’s new president Shashank Manohar on the issue and he would avoid the question, saying, “I’ve no knowledge regarding this. I’ve not seen any list like this”.

Howeever, in such a scenario where there could be a dilemma over Dhoni’s availability in the next IPL edition, a team that picks him as skipper would be in for a complete shock.

To top it all, indications are that Dhoni is likely to retire after the World T20 to be held before the next IPL season. Dhoni has been struggling for form lately in international and domestic cricket.

In the IPL, though, he remains a hit. Dhoni scored 372 runs from 17 matches in the last IPL season, and aggregates 2987 runs at an average of 39.30 from 129 matches so far in eight seasons. He is the most successful captain in the IPL, having led CSK to five finals and winning two of them.

Another big loser, if at all, could be Raina. After being dropped from the Test team, Raina has been going through a bad patch even in the shorter formats as well as domestic cricket. But Raina has an extraordinary record in the IPL, and has not missed a single game so far in eight years.

Jadeja and Ashwin will certainly be in the demand after their recent showing. And who knows, the new franchise may even throw the captain’s hat on Ashwin.