Yuvraj is undoubtedly happy he made a half-century for Delhi Daredevils against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday, only his second this season. The Delhi Daredevils are undoubtedly happy too, considering they paid an astronomical Rs 16 crore for him at the IPL player’s auction earlier this year.
But for DD, scoring runs is just part of Yuvraj’s job. The Indian Premier League is a business first and a sport second. Unlike international sport, where athletes are ideally picked solely on the basis of their performances, sports franchises have other considerations, such as attractiveness to advertisers, ticket sales and merchandising.
Yuvraj Singh. SportzpicsYuvraj Singh. Sportzpics
Having a recognised star, even a fading one, can attract sponsors, sell tickets and t-shirts and also lift the profile of a franchise
Performance still matters most, of course, but it isn’t the only factor that goes into deciding how much to pay a player.
Delhi Daredevils had a rotten 2014. To call the team inept would be kind. They needed a makeover on the field and off the field. Often, the best way to do that is to make a splashy signing. In DD’s case, they needed to sign a big name India player. The problem was MS Dhoni is joined to Chennai Super Kings like a Siamese twin while Virat Kohli is living life King-size with the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Yuvraj is the next most popular Indian player still playing professional cricket. His brush with cancer showed just how loved he is by Indian fans. And while he clearly isn’t as good as he was while winning the 2011 World Cup, where he was named Player of the Tournament, his presence still attracts attention and interest.
According an American Appraisal report on the IPL’s brand report, Delhi Daredevils has lowest value of all the franchises at $32 million. A year ago, they were valued at $40 million. The franchise had to do something
Of course, given the choice, Delhi would have preferred not to pay a record Rs 16 crore for Yuvraj. But they were pushed by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the auction. At that point they had to decide how invested they were in the idea of Yuvraj. The answer, it turned out, was very.
“Player selection is not just limited to skills and performance but also to the ability of a player to garner sponsorships, case in point being Delhi Daredevils’ acquisition of Yuvraj Singh for a record INR 160 million,” American Appraisal wrote in the same report.
Obviously, the best case scenario is for Yuvraj to score runs and for Delhi to win games. But even though Yuvraj hasn't set the IPL alight this season - his average is 22.55 - he he has already raised the franchise’s profile and generated interest in their games because his fans want to watch what he does. His fans, or some proportion of them, have effectively become DD fans this season.
In the final analysis then, the Yuvraj signing mustn’t be judged solely by the runs he is scoring but also by the attention he and the team is getting. As far as the bottom line is concerned, the latter could well make up for the lack of the former.