On 5 December, the nation of a billion cricket fans went into a state of shock when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that Richard Madley — the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) very own ‘hammerman’ — was no longer going to conduct the player auction for the upcoming edition.
The news came as a bombshell and social media was abuzz, criticising the BCCI for axing a person who had played his role so well for the past 10 editions. Replacing him was Hugh Edmeades, an independent fine art, classic car and charity auctioneer from Britain.
Edmeades had done over 2,300 auctions related to charity, fine arts and classic cars but he had no prior experience of such auctions. Moreover, he seemed like an unwanted figure in front of Madley, who had made his place in the heart of the Indian fans and thereby went on to become the face of the IPL auctions over the last decade. But the reality was hard, as was the process — a one-line email — in which Madley was axed for this edition of the auctions.
However, there was another version of reality that is hardly known to anyone. Edmeades was one of the auctioneers who was approached to conduct the auction for the inaugural edition of the IPL back in 2008. But he had to turn down the offer due to other commitments at that time.
“12 years ago, I was contacted to see if I could conduct the first ever IPL Auction. But I had other commitments to fulfill. So, I couldn't consider the offer. But I am delighted that they have reconsidered me after so many years to conduct this edition of the auction,” the 60-year old revealed in an exclusive interview with Firstpost.
So, if the concept of alternate realities is to be believed, there might be another timeline where Edmeades has become the face of the IPL auctions and Madley is still an unknown name.
Even imagining such a reality could drive many Indian fans crazy. Such has been the influence of Madley over the years. However, this is how reality could have unfolded itself had Edmeades confirmed his availability a decade back.
It didn't take him long to realise what he had missed out on, as the IPL went on to become a massive hit in the next couple of years. More than a decade has passed since the inaugural edition and he never expected to get the same offer again, as was never approached since then.
However, as he said, the offer came totally ‘out of the blue’ this time around. It was something he didn't expect, but was elated at the same time to get it after so many years.
“The offer came totally out of the blue. I wasn't expecting it at all after so many years.
“ But I was very excited to get the offer. I knew it was going to be a totally different kind of auction than the ones I had conducted and hence a new challenge for me as well. As I like new challenges, I was very pleased to get the offer.”
The offer came with a sense of awkwardness too, as he was taking over from someone who had been his co-worker and a good friend over the years.
Madley and Edmeades used to work for the iconic British auction house Christie’s. It was only in 2016 that Edmeades parted ways to go independent after an association of 38 years with the organisation.
However, like two mature individuals who have seen the world change in four decades of experience, Madley and Edmeades kept their friendship unhurt too. They didn't let any kind of awkwardness and communication gap grow between them despite the news, which turned out to be bitter for one and sweet for the other.
“We used to work together. He is a good friend and we get along very well.
“When I was announced as the auctioneer, he texted and congratulated me. Then I rang him up. We had a nice chat and he wished me good luck again before hanging up.
He did sound a bit disappointed but that's human nature only. Even I would have been disappointed if I was in his place. He also texted me just before the auction to wish me luck once again and that was really very nice of him.”
Edmeades agrees that taking over from someone who has been part of the event for so long was always going to be tough. It is very hard to match the level of someone like Madley who had earned the title of IPL’s very own ‘Hammerman’ after 10 years of relentless service. The expectations are always high and it is never easy to match them.
But he enjoyed every bit of the six-hour-long event and was overwhelmed by the manner in which everyone, from the franchise owners to the administrators, had welcomed and accepted him, despite him being an unfamiliar figure in a familiar event for them.
“Replacing someone who has been a part of an event for so long isn't easy. It's really difficult when people have followed only one person and hence there is only one person to judge by and compare,” Edmeades said.
“But they will definitely get to know me if I am invited again for the auctions in the coming years.
“For now, I am happy that things went fine, people were so accepting and I happily fulfilled my job. IPL has been one of the biggest events in cricket since its inception. I am happy that people liked my style of selling. The administrators and franchise owners congratulated me at the end of the auction. I was happy to see that everyone was happy with my efforts.”
With all the chaos and tension surrounding Madley’s axing, the spotlight was always on him. He has visited India several times since 2006 for various charity auctions, commercial art sales and for several other things in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chandigarh. But the concept of a cricket auction where players are auctioned off was totally new to him.
He did have a brief encounter with a cricket-related auction before, but that was way back during the initial years of his profession in 1987. It was the MCC Bicentenary Auction at Lord's, something that was totally different from the IPL auction.
However, he didn't give anyone even an inch to complain. In fact, everything went smoothly for him despite him not being well versed with this version of the auction.
The only thing he experienced while conducting the event on Tuesday was a sense of responsibility like never before. He realised that he was not selling off any object or materialistic possession in this auction. In fact, he was assigning values to multiple lives and that's what made him concerned about each and every player while raising his gavel to announce ‘Sold’.
“Unlike other auctions, it involved a lot more responsibility as it is really a life-changer for the players. Along with recognition, they get a lot of money too. If you look at it, 8.4 crore is a lot of money. I haven't felt such a sense of responsibility before while announcing 'Sold',” Edmeades revealed.
The auction turned out to be a success indeed, for the players, for the franchises and for Edmeades as well. The very next day he was heading back home in an afternoon flight. But he had already assembled many memories to take back home with himself.
“I take back many good memories with myself every time I visit this country. This time around, I am taking back the memories of the charming people I have met here, of course, of the delicious food I have eaten and also the visuals of the wonderful architecture of Jaipur.
"People are very lovely and welcoming here. They have been very friendly whichever city I have visited. That's why I keep coming back and I’ll love to come back again if I am invited in the next edition.”