IPL auction: The tweeting auctioneer!

For starters, the stars had to scale down their ambitions as an obvious rationalisation of their value was evident. Agreed Shane Watson was roped in at Rs. 9.5 crore by Royal Challengers Bangalore but it was nowhere close to the jaw-dropping bids that were placed in the same venue over the previous years.

Indian Premier League chairman Rajiv Shukla and CEO Rathnakar Shetty arrive for the IPL auction in Bengaluru on February 6.   -  PTI

The build-up to the latest IPL player auction in Bengaluru’s ITC Gardenia Hotel, was largely on mute-mode. It was understandable as the teams had already retained their core players and if there was any attention, it was largely vested upon the two new entrants — Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions — that replaced the suspended squads, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals.

Even with the debutants, there was a sense of the ‘been-there-done-that’ air as Supergiants had picked M. S. Dhoni and Lions opted for Suresh Raina. If there was some buzz prior to Saturday’s auction (February 6), it was thanks to the tweets from auctioneer Richard Madley, who mentioned about landing in Bengaluru; probed about the interest in fellow-countrymen like Jos Buttler; and proclaimed that his gavel was up for grabs.

However, if ever there was a prolonged lull before the storm, this was it. For once the auction, that witnessed the ‘sale’ of 94 players, commenced with Madley successfully overseeing the first-buy — Kevin Pietersen for Supergiants (at Rs. 3.5 crore) — different trends emerged that heightened interest and retrieved the buzz.

For starters, the stars had to scale down their ambitions as an obvious rationalisation of their value was evident. Agreed Shane Watson was roped in at Rs. 9.5 crore by Royal Challengers Bangalore but it was nowhere close to the jaw-dropping bids that were placed in the same venue over the previous years.

Yuvraj Singh, the toast over the last two auctions with price bands of Rs. 14 and Rs. 16 crores, elicited a long pause at a base-price of Rs. 2 crore. Madley wryly said: “He got a bit more last year.” When it seemed that he might go — horror of horrors — unsold, Mumbai Indians jumped in, RCB joined the act and finally Sunrisers Hyderabad walked away with the southpaw at Rs. 7 crore.

Ironically, New Zealand’s Martin Guptill, in the form of his life, found no takers despite his name doing the rounds twice — the marquee-bid and the accelerated-bid!

As the day wore on, one big-trend surfaced — the clamour for spinners and specifically those, who slipped under the arclights. The course-correction ensured that Yuvraj wasn’t the costliest Indian but Delhi’s young left-arm spinner Pawan Negi, who has just found a berth in the Indian T20 squad. Negi was pouched by Delhi Daredevils at Rs. 8.50 crore, a whopping increase from his self-proclaimed base price of Rs. 30 lakh!

None highlighted the drive to select the unsung young cricketer more than Mumbai Indians. The franchise picked fast bowler Nathu Singh (Rs. 3.2 crore) and rookie spinners Krunal Pandya (Rs. 2 crore) and Kishore Pramod Kamath (Rs. 1.4 crore). Owner Akash Ambani cryptically said: “Our scouts have been looking around for six months.”

It was obvious that owners had their specific needs to be fulfilled as King’s XI Punjab aggressively pursued seamer Mohit Sharma and nailed him at Rs. 6.5 crore and co-owner Preity Zinta declared: “We wanted someone to also bowl at the death. Mohit was always part of our plans.” And smart bowlers like Praveen Kumar also evoked interest as Gujarat Lions gained him at Rs. 3.5 crore.

A cursory glance at all the squads (inclusive of retained players) shows that the established biggies like for instance Mumbai Indians and RCB have a solid unit at least on paper. With Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and skipper Virat Kohli, RCB has a deadly mix of explosive batsmen.

But what remains to be seen when the IPL’s ninth edition commences this summer is the manner in which the Supergiants marks its first steps. With Dhoni at the helm, it could well be an outfit to watch out for as the man from Ranchi, truth be told, was the singular force behind CSK’s phenomenal progress. If he could wave that magic wand again, the league will be truly energised just as Rajasthan Royals’ bull-run in 2008 propped up the ‘David vs Goliath’ tale in the inaugural edition.

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