Friday, May 23, 2008

Runs and ruins: Mallya and the art of inconsistency

"We have a team that has a lot of balance now and we should be taken very seriously in IPL." That was Vijay Mallya speaking after the IPL's second auction on March 11. The statement may seem incongruous today, when Mallya is letting the world know that he feels let down at being handed a dud team in the form of Royal Challengers. But March 11 wasn't the first time Mallya had voiced the view that his was a team to reckon with. Even earlier, on February 27, on the sidelines of the F-1 in Barcelona, he had held forth on the virtues of his squad to a group of Indian journalists. On that occasion, it wasn't just a throw-away line, but a detailed dissection of Royal Challengers.

The liquor baron, for instance, described Jacques Kallis as the "best (all-rounder) going around" and Cameron White as "young and explosive". As for Mark Boucher, he said the addition of "this hard-hitting wicketkeeper" batsmen meant that "we have a very strong and balanced team". He spoke approvingly of Wasim Jaffer and Chanderpaul as well and said that for the spinners role, "with Anil Kumble at hand we didn't have to go too far".

Mallya did say that he would have liked to bag Robin Uthappa as well. "I only wish we could have bought Robin Uthappa. But due to budget constraints we couldn't get him. We would have been 100% complete with him. At the moment, we are 95 per cent but I am quite satisfied," he added. "We have loads of experience in our team and I think that is what is going to count in a long-drawn league," he concluded. Even as recently as May 7, the day after Royal Challengers CEO Charu Sharma was sacked, Mallya apparently had no problems with the team per se. A statement issued by him said: "I continue to have faith and confidence in all my players led by Rahul Dravid and in Martin Crowe, chief cricketing officer, and his team."

But five days later he was singing a different tune. "My biggest mistake was to abstain from the selection of the team," he was reported as saying. "Since Dravid is such an iconic player, I trusted his judgement. But after the final list, my friends told me it looked like a Test team. But I backed both of them thinking that they advised me properly."

On Tuesday, sources close to Mallya suggested that the flamboyant liquor baron had wanted MS Dhoni, Brendon McCullum and Uthappa in his side but had been vetoed by Dravid at the auction.

Here's the catch in that story: Dhoni went to Chennai for $1.5 million, McCullum to Kolkata for $700,000 and Uthappa to Mumbai for $800,000. That's a combined sum of $3 million for those three players.

Bangalore would have had to bid higher for them to get them. Add to that the fee it would have had to pay for Dravid - 15% higher than Dhoni as Dravid is an icon player - and the total for just those four players would have been at least $4.75 million. With a $5 million cap placed on each team for the auction, that would have left Bangalore with four players. Not very much else.

"Victory belongs to the most persevering"


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