Fast bowlers, power hitters in focus

With just 73 slots to be filled, the eight IPL franchises held their cards close to their chests and bought 62 players – 29 foreigners and 33 Indians.

Biggest buy: Australia's Pat Cummins attracted a historic bid of ₹ 15.5 crore from Kolkata Knight Riders in a five-way battle, for the highest amount ever paid for an overseas cricketer.   -  Action Images via Reuters

A whopping sum of ₹140.3 crore!

That’s how much the eight Indian Premier League franchises splurged for this year’s “mini” auction in Kolkata. With just 73 slots to be filled, the franchises held their cards close to their chests and bought 62 players – 29 foreigners and 33 Indians.

With most of the teams retaining their core units, the sole idea for the franchises was to get some fast bowlers and power hitters who can make an impact in the marathon tournament. And that was evident in their approach as most of the sides went all-out to rope in fast bowlers – with Australia’s Pat Cummins attracting a historic bid of ₹15.5 crore from Kolkata Knight Riders in a five-way battle.

Interestingly, Cummins hasn’t played Twenty20 cricket for a couple of years now, and with the World T20 lined up next year, his availability for the entire tournament isn’t confirmed either. But that did not stop KKR from bringing its “old Knight” back home – that too, for the highest amount ever paid for an overseas cricketer. Cummins, who has previously been on the KKR roster for two seasons in 2014 and 2015, featured in the 2017 edition of the tournament and scalped 15 wickets for Delhi Daredevils. And many feel that his vast experience will bolster the Knights’ pace attack.

That’s not all. Kolkata ensured that it got back another of its old recruits by roping in England’s World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan. However, the team’s head coach, Brendon McCullum, clarified that they are not considering Morgan as captain. “Dinesh Karthik is definitely our captain. Morgan will be a perfect lieutenant for Karthik,” McCullum said.

If Cummins returned to his old franchise, it was also a homecoming for his compatriot Glenn Maxwell. Returning to mainstream cricket after a break due to mental health issues, Maxwell was roped in by Kings XI Punjab for ₹10.75 crore.

“We were looking at certain players and we are happy to have got those players on board,” Kings XI co-owner Ness Wadia said.

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Back in the middle: It was a homecoming for Glenn Maxwell. Returning to mainstream cricket after a break due to mental health issues, he was roped in by Kings XI Punjab for ₹10.75 crore.   -  Action Images via Reuters

 

Having captained KXIP in the past, there were rumours that Maxwell could be considered as the skipper. However, the franchise decided to elevate K. L. Rahul to the top job. “As the management, our main objective is to look at the options available and then decide on the best possible combination. KL has been with us for a few seasons now and he is not only a star batsman, but also leads from the front,” Wadia said.

On a day when the overseas players had a field day, West Indies’ pacer Sheldon Cottrell was also roped in for ₹8.5 crore by Kings XI, while Nathan Coulter-Nile went back to his old home at Mumbai Indians for ₹8 crore.

But what was the idea behind roping in fast bowlers?

Kings XI head coach and former India captain Anil Kumble believes that the bowlers are critical in T20s. “Our gaps were evident. We had to fill in the fast bowler slots. We needed someone in the middle order, and having all-rounders is a blessing. The choice and money we had to spend we focused on pacemen and middle-order folks,” Kumble said.

While the overseas players had a field day, some of the seasoned Indian cricketers too made their presence felt. While spinner Piyush Chawla – who was released by KKR this year – was bought by Chennai Super Kings for ₹6.75 crore, Robin Uthappa went to Rajasthan Royals for ₹3 crore.

Interestingly, Jaydev Unadkat – who was the highest buy for the last two seasons – went back to Rajasthan Royals for a far lower price of ₹3 crore.

“The dynamics of the auction are to fill a few gaps. JD is one of India’s finest bowlers. He fills a very specific slot. We are very pleased to have him back,” Royals lead owner Manoj Badale said.

Young uncapped Indian players – Varun Chakravarthy, Ravi Bishnoi and Yashasvi Jaiswal – too went for big money.

A year after attracting the joint-highest bid with Unadkat for ₹8.4 crore, Tamil Nadu mystery spinner Chakravarthy earned the highest bid among uncapped Indian players as he was bought by KKR for ₹4 crore.

Having set himself at a base price of ₹30 lakh, Chakravarthy attracted intense bidding between Royal Challengers Bangalore and KKR. India under-19 bowler Bishnoi was bought by Kings XI Punjab for ₹2 crore – 10 times his base price of ₹20 lakh. The 17-year-old Jaiswal went to Rajasthan Royals for ₹2.4 crore.

“I think with Jaiswal and even (Kartik) Tyagi, they are players who we think can play a very important role for Royals over the next four-five years,” Badale said, making it clear that the franchises want to nurture the youngsters for a longer period of time and are not looking at them as “one-time options.”

While some of the uncapped players earned big, it was surprising to see international stars like Colin de Grandhomme and Alzarri Joseph failing to find any bidders.

Perhaps this is what IPL auction is all about. Predictions and favourites don’t have a role here!