For fans of a certain age, the very mention of Charu Sharma rolls back the years to the 2003 Cricket World Cup when he hosted the Extraa Innings pre-match build-up show with Indian TV actress Mandira Bedi. His involvement in sport though is almost half a decade old now.
During his illustrious career, Sharma has donned several hats, from a quiz master to taking up the CEO role for Indian T20 League’s Team Bangalore in the inaugural edition in 2008.
Apart from his association with cricket, Charu Sharma has made his presence felt in multiple sports and is the director of the Pro Kabaddi League.
Charu Sharma was recently in the headlines for stepping up and taking over as a stand-in auctioneer at the Indian T20 League 2022 mega auction on extremely short notice.
SportsAdda had the privilege to speak to the man himself about his thoughts and experiences at the much-talked about mega auction that he stepped in to host at the last minute under unusual circumstances.
How did you manage to reach the Indian T20 League 2022 mega auction?
Charu Sharma: Well, it was all good fortune because I don’t live too far from the ITC Gardenia and when Brijesh Patel - chairman of Indian T20 League governing council - called and told me about the emergency, I was having lunch and I had to put on suitable clothes and rushed to the venue with my driver and reached within 15 minutes from the moment he called. So, it was very lucky, I was next door. Of course, I had to leave a big family lunch but they all understood later.
There were some reports and comments that you got stuck in the notorious Bengaluru traffic?
Charu Sharma: No, they were all joking saying how could you get there so quickly at that time of traffic. For one, it was a Saturday afternoon. Two, I literally live a few minutes away from the ITC Gardenia and it was a lot easier. I took some time dressing up, forgot my earpiece which I realised after arriving there but luckily my wife found it so, that was also complete before I started.
Even though on short notice, you magically pulled off the Indian T20 League 2022 auction successfully without any further disruptions? Your thoughts?
Charu Sharma: I don’t want to sound excessively humble or modest. I am also an auctioneer and a professional one, so the trade is very easy for me. It’s just that I haven’t been paying attention to the Indian T20 League auction, despite the fact that it was a mega one too. I didn’t have the television on and wasn’t really up on it. So, that was something you have to tune your mind into but as you know I have been in the world of sports for many years now. It didn’t take me long to focus on the task in hand. But the task itself is something I have done several times before, in the world of sports and art.
You have conducted auctions in the past. How was this year’s Indian T20 League auction different from others?
Charu Sharma: As an auctioneer, this Indian T20 League 2022 mega auction wasn’t any different. You follow the process laid down and all the rules are clearly understood by the auctioneer and the rest of the people as well. In many ways, I was back amongst familiar people, old cricketers who have turned coaches, the owners I have been with for a while. I have been around the cricket circuit for a long time so it’s a question of being amongst old friends and some new ones. Hence, there was no tension on account of the fact that here I was hosting a rugby auction in Argentina for the first time. This was a cricket auction in India, in my home city (Bengaluru) so there were a lot of comfort factors there.
Everyone was raving about how you stepped up at the drop of a hat. Social media exploded when you replaced Hugh Edmeades. What are your thoughts?
Charu Sharma: Well, I mean, all day I was busy so I didn’t have access to the phone at all. I must confess that I do feel social media is a massive global tool for communication but I’m not deeply into it yet. I’m trying to do something on Twitter, but not much elsewhere. When I got back, I was pretty much tired but managed to get back with my family in the evening after I left them earlier at lunch. I’m afraid that after many years my phone did explode with this mess and I thought if I open it now, I’ll be up till very late in the night. So I just put it on busy mode. I was having some house guests so rather than being busy on the phone and being disrespectful to them, I kept it aside. But some comments did come, and the people at home did watch the auction so I received a warm reception. I learnt there has been a lot of favourable comments and I am grateful and pleased about it.
Was this a sudden decision from the BCCI or did they have another replacement for such unforeseen situations?
Charu Sharma: I really don’t know. I don’t think so. You really ask Brijesh or anyone from the Indian T20 League team. One of the many possibilities is that Brijesh and I are old friends. He has been certainly aware of my auction capabilities as I have conveyed and designed the Karnataka Premier League and several leagues in the country. I have designed the auctions that surrounded these leagues and actually did these auctions. I don’t know if he thought about it or not but he certainly gave me a call very quickly or so it seems after Hugh Edmeades’ unfortunate incident. Then it was just providencial engineering as one, I was in town. Two, I was free, Three, I was next door, Four, I am an auctioneer. Five, I do Television. Six, I am from the game, cricket, so I mean I suppose one could tick off every selection. This is what I think unless Brijesh had something else in mind because at the time of the incident, everyone’s mind was in chaos like ‘Oh my God! What happened to him?’. There’s no doubt in my mind that they would have first looked after Hugh’s needs, like an ambulance and other medical assistance, and for the people present, Brijesh and the organisers must have fallen aback thinking how to get things going.
Do you think the BCCI should not be so obsessed with foreign auctioneers and instead stick to homegrown talent?
Charu Sharma: Not just the BCCI but a lot of countries tend to depend on their own talent. But, whenever they need me at an auction such as this one, I am mostly available and more than willing to be available. This (foreign auctioneer) seemed to be a tradition set by some of the leagues in India that perhaps having someone from overseas to help out would grab more attention and the audience might think this is a bit more sophisticated. I also think that this could be a case where someone not from India would do a better job in some areas where people have not become well-known enough.
Your thoughts on the Indian T20 League auction? They say it could be the last mega auction.
Charu Sharma: In terms of the mega auction, perhaps the last. All mega auctions are tailored around the fact that there are new teams in the league. Once the teams are set, there is no need to have a mega auction. You can continue contracting the players you have, trading players between teams like any other mature league that doesn’t have any auction. Is the Indian T20 League mature at 10 teams? Pretty close, because it cannot get bigger and bigger as cricket has a huge global calendar. If we have an Indian T20 League that spans over three-four months, it will be very difficult to fetch overseas players or even Indian players. Five years down the line, there might be some pressure to include two new teams to be representative of a large country like India but at that time, the league will elicit a mega auction but I believe they will have to change the format as well to accommodate the availability of players.
What were the challenges you faced during the accelerated auction? There were too many players on the list and very little time.
Charu Sharma: Ahead of the accelerated auction, all teams are requested to give their wish list of (20) players. Of course, there were some common names when the lists were submitted. All teams were eyeing their best but they added some other players besides the top five players they nominated keeping in mind they could miss out on their main targets. From the players’ perspective, it is nerve-wracking as their name might come in multiple rounds of the accelerated auction and they are nervous about finding a buyer. On the flip side, it is a process for an auctioneer where upon getting the lists, they tend to crunch the time period for a player as much as possible knowing the majority of the nominated players will go unsold.
Any particular part of the Indian T20 League 2022 mega auction that you will remember?
Charu Sharma: Not particularly the auction but I am certainly overwhelmed that after so many years, I have received a very gracious, positive and encouraging response from a lot of people, familiar friends and new ones. I have been a commentator for over 40 years, and not many people continue to remain in touch. This is one of the rare moments in life because auctioneers don’t receive praise that often. The whole story is quite dramatic, and I am not lucky to forget the circumstances of how it all turned out but on the whole, the auction was just part of the ‘drama’.
Author: Sandilya Garimella
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Featured photo: Twitter / Charu Sharma