Bengaluru, May 22: There was a bit of surprise when Hugh Edmeades replaced Richard Madley, who manned the IPL auctions since the first edition, as the auctioneer in 2018. But the vastly experienced Englishman led two smooth auctions since at Jaipur and Kolkata.
It was a sort of return to the original too as Edmeades was approached by the BCCI in 2008 to conduct the first-ever IPL auction but he had to turn the offer down because of other commitments. The IPL 2020 might have been postponed indefinitely owing to the Coronavirus pandemic. But as someone who rolled the dice for the tournament through the auction, Edmeades glanced back at the process for MyKhel.
Q: You have conducted two IPL auctions (2018, 2019), how was the experience of being part of a process that is eagerly watched by millions?
Ans: It was a very exhilarating experience and certainly a very different one. The main difference to all my other auctions is at the IPL auction, I am "selling" human beings rather than inanimate objects. Throughout the auction, I am very much bearing in mind the following:
1. I am the chosen representative of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to conduct the auction in a professional, fair and timely manner.
2. Each of the cricketers that I offer to the franchisees are relying on my professionalism and skill to achieve the optimum price for them.
3. The representatives of the eight franchisees need to have confidence in my ability to conduct the auction in a professional, fair and timely manner.
4. That there are many millions of passionate cricket fans and other interested parties watching the auction live on television, so the pressure is on me not to make any mistakes.
Q: You'd conducted more than 2300 auctions before the IPL auction. But was there a tinge of nerve because of the high-profile nature of the IPL auction and the that lot of money involved?
Ans: During my time at Christie's, I conducted many high-profile auctions, involving vast sums of money. Having conducted some 2,300 auctions over a period of 35 years, you might imagine I should be oblivious to nerves. However, before all of my auctions, I like to feel nervous as nerves not only concentrate one's mind, they also increase one's adrenaline thereby increasing the rates of blood circulation and breathing. Over the years I have learnt various exercises to harness these nerves to my advantage and I put all these exercises to good effect both in Jaipur in 2018 and in Kolkata last year.
Q: Was it tough to replace Richard Madley, your colleague and friend from the Christies, as the IPL auctioneer because Madley was a hugely popular figure among the Indian spectators, officials and team owners?
Ans: I obviously knew that Richard had become vastly experienced with the IPL auctions - before me, he had been the only IPL auctioneer. I realised that he had built up a great following with the fans and was well respected by the team owners. This knowledge just served to make me determined to maximise my experience as an auctioneer. I was also making up for lost time, because before Richard was appointed, I had been asked to be the IPL auctioneer, but because of my commitments with Christie's at the time, I was unable to take up the offer. Over the years, I bitterly regretted the missed opportunity, so you can imagine my delight when, in 2018, I was asked again. This time, I wasn't going to let the opportunity to slip through my fingers for a second time. Richard had set a very high standard, but I was confident that I could match his standard and indeed better it.
Q: Did you talk to Madley before your first auction, in an effort to learn the process and atmosphere?
Ans: Richard telephoned me after my appointment, expressing his natural disappointment at losing the job, but at the same time, kindly wishing me good luck. But no, we did not discuss the actual mechanics of the auction. I had naturally watched various recordings of the auction over the years, so I was totally aware of the process and had a pretty good idea of what the atmosphere was likely to be.
Q: How did you adjust to the fast-paced nature of IPL auction and did the preparation and duration of the process leave you a drained man?
Ans: Knowing that I was going to be "on my feet" for at least six hours, with only a couple of short breaks, I had calibrated my mind and body for such a duration. The adrenaline and excitement of the auction stood me in good stead, but yes, I naturally felt both mentally and physically challenged by the time I brought the gavel down on the last player. The feeling of being "drained" only hit me several hours after the end of the auction, once the adrenaline had stopped coursing through my veins - which was just as well, as last year, I had to go straight from the hotel to the airport to fly from Kolkata to St Moritz to take an auction there 48 hours later - I slept very well on the plane!
Q: What is your most-cherished memory from the auction?
Ans: I have lots of happy memories of both auctions. The Indian people, their culture, their cuisine, the venues, the general razzmatazz. The most-cherished memory though was achieving life-changing amounts of money for cricketers who without the IPL format might never have the opportunity to get onto the world's cricketing stage.
Q: From your perspective, which player's buy/omission surprised you most on the course of the auction?
Ans: The first two players I offered at my first auction in Jaipur were Alex Hales and Martin Guptill - both of whom failed to attract a bid from any of the team owners. That certainly was not what I was expecting! Achieving Rs 480 Lakh against an expected Rs 20 Lakh for Prabhsimran Singh was particularly satisfying as well as being slightly surprising.
Q: Finally, we have been witnessing a change in the way we are living with social distancing the new norm. Do you think this will affect the conduct of auctions in future with emphasis shifting more to online auctions?
Social distancing will have an enormous effect on "live" auctions - we have already seen the major global auction houses preparing themselves for the "new normal" and having to focus more on "online" auctions. That said, the format of IPL auctions is that each team is only allowed 8 representatives around the table, so social distancing could be implemented relatively easily when it comes to the actual bidders. What would be less easy is social distancing all the other people involved in the production of the auction, what with the organisers, the BCCI staff, the press, the TV production employees, the stage builders and so on. I hope the IPL auction will continue to be a "Live" affair, because if it goes "Online", much of the excitement, the drama, the atmosphere and the bonhomie of the event will be lost, which would be a huge disappointment for all concerned - not least for the auctioneer!