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Pandya’s defection: Signs of cricket’s becoming ‘football’

The news from the cricket field is quite sensational. Mumbai Indians are looking to buy Gujarat Titans’ captain Hardik Pandya. The concept of buying and selling players in franchise tournaments isn’t new, but in Pandya’s case, there’s a novelty—significant money is involved in the exchange between two teams.

In club football, there’s a specific time for player transfers known as the ‘transfer window’. Apart from exceptions, teams can buy players from each other twice a year. There’s no such thing as a ‘transfer window’ in franchise cricket. Here, players are acquired through auctions, drafts, or direct contracts. The most lucrative franchise tournaments in the world, like the IPL, often witness player exchanges primarily through auctions. There’s another rule here.

Before each season’s auction, teams have to submit a list to the governing body of retained and released players. At this stage, teams can trade or buy players if they wish. Officially, this is known as the ‘trading window’.

The next auction for the IPL will take place in Dubai on December 19. Today is the last day for submitting the list of retained and released players. This marks the final day for trading between the two franchises as well. According to ESPN Cricinfo, unless something dramatic happens, Mumbai Indians are looking to buy Pandya from Gujarat Titans. Pandya is not a part of a direct player transfer in this transfer window. Meanwhile, Mumbai has already bought Romario Shepherd from Lucknow Super Giants.

In the past, players like Ravichandran Ashwin, Quinton de Kock, and Trent Boult have switched from one team to another in various seasons. However, they all were sold for a price that didn’t touch the ₹11 crore mark (the highest being Shardul Thakur’s ₹10.75 crore move from Delhi to Kolkata). Pandya’s situation breaks this record.

Pandya joined Gujarat in 2022 for ₹15 crore after winning two IPL titles with Mumbai in 2015 and 2017. Leading a new franchise, he clinched the IPL trophy in the first year and reached the finals in the second. As per the rules of trading, Mumbai will have to pay ₹15 crore to Gujarat and a transfer fee. Pandya will receive half of this amount again. Thus, Pandya’s ‘Gujarat to Mumbai transfer’ is set to create a new record in terms of financial transactions in the IPL.

This kind of player trading has been more associated with unpopular or less famous players. Pandya’s move signifies a shift toward making cricket similar to football in terms of trading. Former England captain Michael Vaughan considers Pandya’s move a strong indication of cricket following the footsteps of football. His tweet stated, “Pandya to Mumbai could be the first sign of cricket’s transfer fees taking over. It’s inevitable.”

Vaughan’s statement isn’t entirely clear-cut. However, cricket commentators in India also see Pandya’s transfer as a major sign of something big happening.

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