The price that a player is sold for during a player auction doesn’t necessarily reflect his utility for a particular franchise. The last 15 player auctions have confirmed this. While the 16th auction – held in Kochi on December 23 – was no exception on that front, it did throw up a few surprises.
We look at some of the takeaways from the auction.
Biggest purse doesn’t result in costliest buy
Just as in 2021, the team with the largest purse available returned without placing the highest bid. Back in 2021, Punjab Kings had ₹53 crore at its disposal, but it was Rajasthan Royals which raised the paddle for ₹16.25 crore to bag Chris Morris – the costliest buy that year.
In Kochi, Sunrisers Hyderabad, with a purse of ₹42.25 crore (₹10 crore higher than the nearest competitor) was the hot favourite to place a record bid. But it was Punjab Kings which did so, shelling out ₹18.50 crore to ensure Sam Curran’s return to his first IPL outfit. Leave alone the top buy, Sunrisers couldn’t even get any of the top four picks at the auction. Its costliest pick – Harry Brook – was fifth on the list.
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Sunrisers suffered mainly because of the tactics deployed by Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings to inflate the costs of Mayank Agarwal and Brook at the start of the auction. Once Sunrisers spent more than ₹21 crore to acquire these batters, they couldn’t spend as much as some other franchises on all-rounders. Mumbai Indians, Punjab Kings, and Chennai Super Kings walked away with the prized catches.
Catch them young at any cost
Smaller auctions have generally witnessed higher bids. This trend continued in Kochi. The top three winning bids – ₹18.50 crore (Sam Curran, PBKS), ₹17.50 crore (Cameron Green, MI) and ₹16.25 crore (Ben Stokes, Super Kings) – were equal to or greater than the previous highest bid at the auction table.
Had Sunrisers not exhausted nearly half its purse to procure the first set of players, an all-rounder could well have broken the ₹20 crore barrier for the first time. These three bids for Curran, Green and Stokes, combined with those for Nicholas Pooran (₹16 crore, Lucknow Super Giants) and Harry Brook (₹13.25 crore, Sunrisers), may have surprised a few, especially considering Green and Brook were entering the auction for the first time. MI owner Akash Ambani stressed that Green’s purchase went along well with the franchise’s vision of investing in the youth, and it was clear, overall, that the franchises were clear in the rationale for going for a certain player.
The Super Giants, for example, went all out for Pooran with an eye on the finisher’s role. Pooran is neither a surprise element nor a proven single-handed match-winner in the IPL. Similarly, MI and Super Kings had their eyes set on one of the three key all-rounders, and the Super Giants were happy being a silent spectator for most of the remaining auction.
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Still, the fact that the franchises splurged so much money on multiple players indicates that once a club zeroes in on a certain talent, it is willing to loosen its purse strings for him. The big question is: will the expensive buys live up to their price tags?
England players in demand
The Australians were the sought-after commodities at the auction table in the early years of the IPL. Then, cricketers from the Caribbean began to be in demand. Now, thanks to the fearless approach to white-ball cricket adopted by England in the last few years, its cricketers have emerged as the most sought after.
Eight England players went under the hammer this time around. And they were purchased for a total amount of ₹54.9 crore. Almost 1/3rd of the total money spent during the auction (₹167 crore) were spent on the eight English players procured by various franchises.
The fearless approach of the English players has no doubt reflected in the auction strategy of the franchises. As has the knowledge that these players will be available for the whole season (it was confirmed by the England and Wales Cricket Board). England’s players will continue to be in high demand if the team continues its remarkable run in limited overs cricket in 2023.
Impact Player impact
Large sums are usually spent on Indian uncapped cricketers in these mini-auctions. But thanks to the introduction of the Impact Player rule for IPL 2023, domestic all-rounders this time found themselves on the receiving end.
Only five Indian uncapped cricketers ended up becoming crorepatis. Two of these five – Shivam Mavi and Mukesh Kumar – recently earned their maiden India call-up. As a result, the number has shrunk for domestic performers.
So what does the Impact Player rule have got to do with this, you may wonder? The answer is simple. The impact player rule will allow a franchise to replace a bowler with a batter or vice-versa at any given point during the game. As a result, most franchises preferred to invest heavily on specialists. While a genuine all-rounder like Vivrant Sharma found a taker, the so-called utility players couldn’t find purchasers.
The return of the oldies
Of the 80 players sold during the auction, three old players stood out. They were Amit Mishra, Piyush Chawla, and David Wiese. Each of these players has good experience in the IPL, but they were returning to the fold after being ignored by franchises for various reasons.
Mishra and Chawla – the leg-spinners – went unsold in the last auction despite their credentials as all-time greats in the IPL. One of the reasons for this was their high base price. Once they lowered their asking price, they found takers. While Mishra’s services were procured by the Super Giants – with his old friend Gautam Gambhir at the helm – Chawla returned to MI’s stables.
Wiese’s inclusion, on the other hand, is his second innings in the IPL. He had a prolonged absence from the T20 stage after excelling for Royal Challengers Bangalore, especially in 2015.
The all-rounder has emerged as one of the key players for Namibia after going there from South Africa. Riding on his good performances for Namibia and in various T20 leagues, Wiese, who will turn 38 during IPL 2023, returned to the IPL fold after going unsold in the last four auctions. The veteran was purchased by Kolkata Knight Riders for ₹1 crore, and he thereby became the first cricketer from Namibia to be part of the IPL.