Richard Madley tells Ross McLean about selling cricketers to stars of Bollywood
THE LIKES of Kevin Pietersen, Yuvraj Singh and Angelo Mathews may not be an auctioneer’s quintessential lot but for the eighth successive year a British gavel will come down on some of the most sought-after cricketers on the planet.
The annual glitz and glamour of the Indian Premier League (IPL) players’ auction takes place in Bengaluru today, and at its helm will be Richard Madley, a second generation auctioneer and senior director at Dreweatts.
More accustomed to selling Impressionist paintings and Chinese art for millions of pounds, Madley – nicknamed Hammer Man in India – is also fully schooled in the trading of priceless sporting figures.
“It’s like going to Disneyland to do a day’s work; once a year I get on my magic carpet and take off for India,” he said.
“It’s is a totally different world to the one auctioneers are used to. It is very theatrical; a lot of lights, cameras, microphones, razzmatazz and actors and actresses in a nation just obsessed with cricket. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think I’m the lucky one who gets the gig.
“But the principles of auctioneering are the same whichever market you’re operating in, whether you’re selling a Victorian chest of drawers and starting bidding at £100 or selling Gautam Gambhir for $2.4m.”
Welshman Madley kept wicket to Andrew Wildblood, executive vice president of IMG and the IPL’s joint architect alongside Lalit Modi, at school, and assumed responsibility for the inaugural auction in 2008 after shaking off competition from heavyweights at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. He started auctioneering at Phillips Son and Neale in New Bond Street in 1978 and the experience of more than 30 years in the industry has proven a useful commodity when complications arise.
“With the amount of money at stake and people’s different bidding tactics, inevitably we’ve had a number of incidents,” added Madley.
“In the fourth auction Dr Vijay Mallya, the Indian Richard Branson, was bidding against Preity Zinta, the most decorative Bollywood actress, for Manoj Tiwary.
“The bid stood with Royal Challengers Bangalore at $1m when I dropped my hammer. But literally as my hammer hit the table, up went the paddle of the Bollywood actress, just fractionally.
“I decided to re-open the bidding and the bid went to Dr Mallya and Bangalore at $1.2m. She wasn’t the most popular person but then again neither was I.
“We have no review system like the umpires in cricket. I have to make the call and that’s when I earn my keep.”
The IPL’s larger triennial auction took place last February when 154 players were sold to the eight franchises, with Yuvraj proving the most expensive, costing Royal Challengers Bangalore $2.2m. The intervening auctions tend to see sides tweak rather than overhaul their playing staff. But with Delhi Daredevils and Sunrisers Hyderabad, for instance, culling their squads after disappointing campaigns, some unexpected big-hitters are set to go under the hammer.
“This is a mid-term auction and fireworks tend to happen when all the players go back in the bag but it’s a pleasant surprise to have the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Yuvraj Singh in the auction,” said Madley. “Pietersen will be right up there, there is no doubt about it, he has been dropped by the Delhi Daredevils but he is a big game player and a big celebrity.”