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Some thoughts on the idea of paisa vasool

By Srinivas Bhogle
April 18, 2009 18:30 IST
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The paisa vasool index (PVI) first appeared on last year - although variants with the same name also appeared later in other publications.

As IPL2 prepares to take off, the PVI, with all its associated statistical analysis and charts, will take off too.

The idea is straight-forward. To obtain an IPL player's PVI, simply divide the money that he earns by an 'estimate' of his performance.

The tricky problem is to properly estimate a cricket player's performance. After all, batsmen score runs, and bowlers take wickets. So how do we compare bowlers with batsmen? How do we collapse performance into just one number that considers everything?

That's what we have attempted to achieve with Rediff's most valuable player index (MVPI). We express everything in terms of runs. A player's MVPI will rise if he scores runs fast, or takes a lot of wickets conceding very few runs, or fields well. It could occasionally drop too if the bowler gives away 60 runs in 4 overs without taking a wicket, or a batsman scores only 30 runs after 'eating up' 60 balls.

In our analysis on Rediff, we will publish a player's MVPI after every other match. Let's suppose Jean-Paul Duminy's MVPI in his first two matches for Mumbai Indians is respectively 65 and 70. That makes a total MVPI of 135 after two matches. Duminy's pro-rata earning after these first two matches - remember that each team plays 14 matches in the league phase - would be $135714 ($950,000 divided by 14 and multiplied by 2). Duminy's PVI after two matches would therefore be about 1000 (135714 divided by 135).

To summarize, the PVI indicates how much a player costs the franchise owner in US$ for every 'run' he scores. For example, In IPL1, Ishant Sharma cost Kolkata Knight Riders $7002 for every 'run' he contributed, while Shaun Marsh cost Punjab Kings XI only $46. So the lower a player's PVI, the more value he is offering.


The PVI provides the basis to draw some serious inferences. used PVI to argue that that idea of icon players didn't work, that it's unwise to pay too much for single skill players, that bowling all-rounders offer more value than batting all-rounders, or that good wicket-keepers can't really add extra value.

However the PVI - and all its clones - is still imperfect. The chief difficulty arises because of the wide disparity in the player payments. Consider this: Abhishek Nayar, paid only $30,000, ended up with a PVI of 121 last year. Sourav Ganguly had a much higher PVI of 2502 because he was paid $1,092,500. But most would agree that Ganguly is more valuable to a franchise owner than Nayar. Who, then, is really more paisa vasool?

The truth is that a player is paid for both his cricketing and brand-selling value. That's where Ganguly scores; his name can bring in 20,000 more spectators into Eden Gardens, and each of them pays the franchise a lot of money.

That's also why Bangalore Royal Challengers picked Kevin Pietersen for a staggering $1,550,000. And after picking him Vijay Mallya declared that he got Kevin cheap, given his immense brand value!

Mallya was in effect saying that only a part of Pietersen's $1,550,000 package was for his cricketing worth. The rest was for the goodwill he brought to Mallya's franchise and businesses.

The paisa vasool index must somehow reflect this reality. We could, for example, argue that only $750,000 out of Pietersen's package is for his cricketing skills and modify his PVI accordingly. But here we start entering dangerous waters, because we cannot properly estimate or justify our numbers.

There's a second - even more compelling - argument which says that the highest value is actually delivered by true winners. Someone involved closely in the Mumbai Indians team selection told me that the franchise always considered Sanath Jayasuriya to be highly paisa vasool. "He'll fail in five matches, and maybe click in just three matches. But the day he clicks, he'll single-handedly win the match for us!"

The paisa vasool index must reflect this reality too. Instead of dividing the player's cost by his MVPI, we should perhaps divide it by the square of the MVPI, i.e. by MVPI * MVPI. We could convincingly argue that a player who doubles his contribution doesn't just double his value; he quadruples it! However, here we enter dangerous waters again.

There's a lot of interesting analytical work to be done, and once the IPL becomes more cold-blooded and performance-driven, franchise owners will want to probe deeper into such questions.

But, for now, let the show begin! Let's get captains to come out and toss. Let's see if most captains will want to field first. Let's see if 150 becomes a winning target. Let's discover if Brendon McCullum is indeed more paisa vasool than Indian cricket's greatest Dada. All the numbers will appear right here on Rediff.

Srinivas Bhogle heads the Bangalore operations of TEOCO Software Pvt Ltd

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