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Unique insight into Rajasthan Royals into the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction

©Rajasthan Royals
 

Chief Operating Officer at the Rajasthan Royals, Jake Lush McCrum, gives an exclusive insight into what goes on behind the scenes at an Indian Premier League (IPL) auction.

 

Q: How much preparation goes into the auction?

Jake Lush McCrum: Preparation begins immediately after the IPL season. Player performances are continuously monitored. Our Head of Cricket receives videos into his Dropbox of players performing well around the world. If he thinks they have the technical ability to perform in the IPL, they are then tracked in more detail.

We review all other teams and make estimations of their release/retention strategy. Our data science teams work on several areas including independent player valuations to uncover undervalued players for specific roles.

We then move on to physical trials for players (both Indian and international), which we hold at our facility in Nagpur. The trials take place in a 75m radius pitch on private property to enable us to trial players in a confidential manner. Previously we had to use public grounds, which led to scouts from other teams turning up! Around thirty players are trialled using match scenarios to test them under high pressure, with players often only getting twelve balls to perform, as would be the case in the IPL.

Post the trials, we run simulations with our analytics team in Chennai. These go on for five days to help us generate estimated values players will be acquired for in the auction, in addition to our final decision tree. This decision tree is the key piece of information for our auction execution. Helping us judge how much we can pay for certain players, players that other teams want that we can push up and opportunities to take advantage of undervalued players.

Q: What happens at the simulator day and how accurate has this been in the past?

Jake Lush McCrum: The simulator helps us find value estimates for all individuals in the auction. Eight of us sit in a room taking a franchise each, researching their needs and then running through the whole auction.

These simulations have historically been very accurate; however, we are looking to automate them so we can complete millions rather than twenty. We will always do the manual ones though to sense check the automated results. To give an example of the accuracy of our simulations, the last auction went exactly to plan, and we saved a little more money than expected.

Q: How much is based on stats vs player reputation? 

Jake Lush McCrum: Our decision making is based on a combination of stats and technical reviews by our Head of Cricket and Head Coach. A player's reputation is considered and will always be checked, but that is only once we believe they can win matches for us in the IPL.

Certain roles have a greater focus on player reputation, such as being a bench international player. These players need a strong character as they have to be able to step up when they are called upon, but also be supportive for the majority of the tournament when they are not playing.

Q: What’s the Royals biggest auction coup success story?

Jake Lush McCrum: In recent years you'd have to say Shreyas Gopal was probably the pick of the 2018 auction at 20 lakh. He was the 4th highest wicket taker in the IPL last year with twenty wickets and performed extremely well in 2018 too.

Looking back, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja were fantastic selections and we helped launch them on the international stage. We also relaunched several international players such as Shane Watson, Shane Warne and James Faulkner. We have highest points per dollar spend and runs per dollar spend in the IPL, which shows how effective we have been in the auction historically.

Q: What’s your biggest regret, any key players you have narrowly missed out on?

Jake Lush McCrum: There have been so many talented Indian players who we have been scouting, but decided they needed one year of development or we went for a different option instead. These have gone on to have great success, but so have so many of the Indian players we have signed like Ravindra Jadeja, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Gopal and Riyan Parag have done the same.

With squad size limits you can never buy every star!

In the IPL you often have to buy players a year early to uncover the gems at a low price, however, depending on the year of the auction cycle this strategy may be impossible (for example if it's year three).

Q: Who from the Rajasthan Royals sits at the auction table and what are their individual roles?

Jake Lush McCrum: Our table consists of:

  •  Manoj Badale - Lead Owner
  •  Final decision maker as paddle holder - based on review on the table
  • Uses in-auction insight to push up certain players from other teams
  • Challenges the Head of Cricket and the Head Coach on the decisions to ensure total confidence
  •  Zubin Bharucha - Head of Cricket
  • Technical expert and playing squad strategist
  • Working with the Head Coach to ensure we have the right balance in our side
  • When we have three options for a certain role, he is the expert who tells us the best player - especially for domestic players
  • Andrew McDonald (on the phone) - Head Coach
  • Technical expert focused around fast bowlers and international players
  • Working with the Head of Cricket to ensure we have the right balance in our side
  • Jake Lush McCrum - Chief Operating Officer
  • Manages the decision tree
  • Forecasts estimated spends to infer how much we can push up other players and the prices we can bid up to for our players
  • Ranjit Barthakur - Executive Chairman
  • Acts as a soundboard
  • Analyst
  • Tracks spend of other teams
  • On the phone to our analytics team in Chennai for their insights

Q: What’s the atmosphere like in the room?

Jake Lush McCrum: It depends on the stage of the auction. It can range from very intense, to rather fun. It is always exciting though. You are changing many players' lives in just a few hours and building a team you believe can win the IPL.

Q: How does the Royals budget compare to other franchises?

Jake Lush McCrum: All teams have the same auction purse – the profitability of teams means everyone is willing to spend their entire purse to build a team to win the competition. We will always look to do this in the most efficient manner possible and as a result saved $700k last year, the second highest of any team.

Q: What are your thoughts on the international player caps? (Eight players only)

Jake Lush McCrum: We'd love for there to be ten international players in a squad (still with only four in the starting line-up). This means that Indian players still have the same opportunity to play and perform on the biggest stage, but they can learn from more international players and you can have more flexibility and quality in your squad – especially when you have players from certain countries leaving early.

Q: What changes would you make to the system?

Jake Lush McCrum: All franchises continuously have conversations with the BCCI which is great for the development of the game. It appears that the BCCI will be implementing no ball checks by the third umpire or a specialist third umpire for all balls this year which is fantastic to eliminate that uncertainty. The new Governing Council appear to be actively looking to innovate which is exactly what the league needs.

©Cricket World 2019