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ISL franchises master the craft of draft

Team owners prefer value-for-money younger players first-up and pick more expensive veteran stars in final lot

He may have 81 caps for India, but yesterday veteran midfielder Climax Lawrence was among the last lot of players to be picked on final day of the two-day Indian Super League (ISL) draft. The midfielder will turn out for Atletico de Kolkata.

Men who matter: Dharmaraj Ravanan (sitting, extreme left), Mehtab Hossain, Syed Rahim Nabi, Steven Dias and Climax Lawrence. Standing (l to r) Jeje Lalpekhlua, Nirmal Chettri, Denzil Franco, Gouramangi Singh, Lenny Rodrigues & Subrata Paul at ISL draft's Day 2
Men who matter: Dharmaraj Ravanan (sitting, extreme left), Mehtab Hossain, Syed Rahim Nabi, Steven Dias and Climax Lawrence. Standing (l to r) Jeje Lalpekhlua, Nirmal Chettri, Denzil Franco, Gouramangi Singh, Lenny Rodrigues & Subrata Paul at ISL draft's Day 2 

Other senior players like Anwar Ali (31 India caps), NP Pradeep (50 caps), Renedy Singh (72 caps) and Mehrajuddin Wadoo (31 India caps) also endured similar fates on the second day of the draft for national players.

Centre-back Anwar will play for Delhi Dynamos FC, winger Renedy will represent Kerala Blasters FC, midfielder Pradeep will play for Team Bengaluru and Mehrajuddin will turn out in FC Pune City's colours.

Evidently reputation counted for little in the draft as teams went for young players. "Some of these veteran players have not exactly been in the best of form or fitness over the last two years. Besides, we expect most of the players in the foreign draft pool to be veteran players anyway, so we will not have a dearth of experience in the squad.

"You must also bear in mind that many clubs will have foreign coaches coming in and it will be more difficult for them to iron out the technical flaws, if any, of players who are 30 or 35 your than say the 20-year-olds. Plus, we had to mind our budgets because these veterans were expensive — not value-for-money signings," a franchise owner told mid-day after the draft.

Climax, meanwhile, was glad to be playing for the Kolkata franchise, having played for Kolkata giants East Bengal.

"I feel very good. I have played for East Bengal. I am really happy to meet the supporters again in Kolkata… Kolkata is a good team and we have to work hard," he said at a press conference yesterday.

Dias eyeing comeback

Mumbai lad Steven Dias is eyeing the ISL as a means to get back into the national team.The 30-year-old former India vice captain has donned the national jersey 51 times, but has been out of reckoning in the recent past. "I am very excited about the Delhi adventure. I enjoyed my football in Delhi — with the national team. "There were a few question marks over my performances. The aim is to play well in the ISL and get back into the national team," he said after being picked by Delhi Dynamos FC yesterday.

Where are the stars?
The ISL draft was not telecast live on television, unlike the IPL auctions. There was also another significant difference between the ISL draft and the IPL auction. While Bollywood stars like Preity Zinta, Shilpa Shetty and Juhi Chawla added to the glamour quotient at the IPL auctions, the ISL draft was completely bereft of any celebrity faces. Actors Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor were not to be seen while John Abraham only came for a presser. Cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were also absent.

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