When Star Sports hosted the two-day mega player auctions ahead of the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League in 2018, it reportedly had 46.5 million viewers tuning in for it.
The broadcaster, which was airing the auction for the first time after winning the global media rights for five years, had said the response for the auctions was overwhelming on television, digital in India, and globally on social.
Since the inaugural event in 2008, the IPL player auction has attracted the same eyeballs as much as the cricket match itself.
So, how and when did this idea of auctioning players come about?
Former IPL Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sundar Raman in conversation with Gaurav Kapur for the show 22 Yarns on Oaktree Sports’ YouTube channel threw light on it.
“It almost came out as an evening tea conversation while we were doing hundred thousand things,” Raman said during the show.
“We sold the franchises… confirmed the start date… we knew the venues and teams. Now, it was left to how do we get the players rostered into each of the teams?
“The only thing sure was the marquee players who were assigned to a set of franchises. There was Sachin Tendulkar for Mumbai because of the belief, and rightly so, that he cannot play for any other team than Mumbai. Yuvraj (Singh) went to Kings XI Punjab and (Virender) Sehwag went to Delhi.
“The challenge was one of those conversations where the question was how do we make the franchises take on the players? One of the franchises, I don’t remember who it was, said ‘why don’t we auction them?’
“After two minutes of deliberation I said ‘good idea, it will generate a lot of consumer interest’. And that decided that.”
“Chennai didn’t have an icon player so they were free to bid for the player of choice… so the Indian T20 captain at the time went to Chennai.
“Interestingly, that was also the year India had won the U-19 World Cup, just a month before the auction. They were captained by Virat Kohli and we decided to keep a separate draft for the U-19 players. The big surprise was that Virat Kohli was not the first player to be picked in the draft,” he added.
The 2020 edition of the League has been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.