Mini auction, big buys

These days, rather than gunning for big names, the IPL franchises prefer players who are potential match-winners. The 2021 auction was no different.

Despite an abysmal outing with Kings XI Punjab last season and consequently released by the franchise, there was an intense bidding war for Glenn Maxwell.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

Mike Hesson was quite blunt when asked about Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) decision to rope in Glenn Maxwell for this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL). A former New Zealand coach and now RCB’s director of cricket operations, Hesson said his team wanted a player with the X-factor, which is why it picked the Aussie for a whopping ₹14 crore.

Considered a game-changer in cricket’s shortest format, Maxwell had an abysmal outing with Kings XI Punjab last season, and consequently he was released by the franchise — which has now been rebranded Punjab Kings — ahead of the February 18 auction. Despite that, there was an intense bidding war for Maxwell when the eight franchises gathered in Chennai.

Our correspondents Vijay Lokapally, Shayan Acharya and Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya discuss the men's side's season thus far and what to look forward to in the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League.

 


And that has been the trend in the IPL auction over the years: Teams are always ready to spend big money on “utility players” who they trust.

Chennai Super Kings came into the auction with a purse of Rs19.90 crore and a clear strategy — to find suitable replacements for Harbhajan Singh and Kedar Jadhav. The franchise played it smart and roped in England all-rounder Moeen Ali (left) and Indian spinner Krishnappa Gowtham for Rs7 crore and Rs9.25 crore, respectively.   -  K. Murali Kumar

 

After the first few editions of the tournament, as one franchise insider points out, the teams realised that too much chopping and changing of the core group could be disruptive for them. These days, rather than gunning for the big names, the franchises prefer players who are potential match-winners.

The 2021 auction was no different as RCB and Rajasthan Royals went big on overseas all-rounders. While the latter roped in South Africa’s Chris Morris for a record ₹16.25 crore, RCB signed New Zealand pacer Kyle Jamieson for a massive ₹15 crore.

“Our focus was on the availability of players to bowl upfront and, more importantly, at the death. The fact that Morris can also win games batting at No. 8 is a value addition. But his bowling ability was the key factor,” Rajasthan Royals chief operating officer Jake Lush McCrum said.

Even the team’s director of cricket operations and former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara suggested that Morris has a specific role in the side – to back key pacer Jofra Archer. The South African, who has had successful stints in previous editions of IPL, has been struggling with injuries, but the franchise is confident his experience will come in handy, and that’s why it did not think twice before signing him for a record amount.

“This being a mini auction, the idea for the franchises was to fix the loose ends, and that’s what they have done. When you have a big purse and a wide talent pool, things could get challenging. But in smaller auctions, only a few fetch big money,” said one franchise boss. That is evident from the fact that the franchises primarily opted for overseas cricketers, and all-rounders predominantly – which explains why Australia’s Aaron Finch and Englishman Alex Hales found no takers.

Chennai Super Kings came into the auction with a purse of ₹19.90 crore and a clear strategy – to find suitable replacements for Harbhajan Singh and Kedar Jadhav. The franchise played it smart and roped in England all-rounder Moeen Ali and Indian spinner Krishnappa Gowtham for ₹7 crore and ₹9.25 crore, respectively. It also signed Cheteshwar Pujara for ₹50 lakh.

“Moeen is a proven performer when it comes to T20s, and he is someone who gives many options to the batting order. He can bat left-handed in the middle order or in the top order as a batsman alone, and then he can be an off-spin option,” said CSK bowling coach Lakshmipathy Balaji, who was present for the auction.

“He has a very important skill when it comes to T20 — to start with the new ball and also bowl in the key phases. Moeen adds a lot of value,” said the former India fast bowler, adding: “There are hardly any off-spin all-rounders in the IPL, and Moeen coming in adds value.”

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) adopted a similar strategy, making the most of its limited purse by roping in star Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan for just ₹3.25 crore. The franchise, which is co-owned by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, also roped in Harbhajan for his base price of ₹2 crore – a smart buy considering that the KKR bowling line-up looked jittery last year.

Punjab Kings took a calculated risk by roping in Australia’s Jhye Richardson for Rs14 crore.   -  AP

 

“We were just looking to fill some specific gaps, and for us, bringing Shakib back to KKR was a big thing. From an experience point of view, towards the end, we had the opportunity to bring Harbhajan back. There is a lot of experience in bowling... The focus of the think tank was a bit towards experience, and from that perspective, we were very happy,” KKR chief executive Venky Mysore said.

While some of the franchises preferred to add experienced campaigners to their rosters, Punjab Kings took a calculated risk by roping in Jhye Richardson for ₹14 crore and the uncapped Riley Meredith for ₹8 crore. For the team, the idea was to strengthen the weak links and the think tank was happy to rope in the seasoned Moises Henriques for ₹4.2 crore and Tamil Nadu cricketer Shahrukh Khan for ₹5.25 crore. The franchise had relied heavily on “mystery spinners” in the past, but that strategy hasn’t quite worked. This time, the rebranded team instead went for “smart buys,” and its director of cricket, former India captain and coach Anil Kumble, is happy with the recruits.

However, with no clarity on the venues, it was quite a challenging task for the franchises to pick suitable players, but they banked on their experience and went for flexible squads that could be suitable in any conditions. “You have to take that amount of risk. That’s the challenge,” said one team owner.

That the teams were cautious with their choices was evident from the fact that Steve Smith hardly found any takers and was signed by Delhi Capitals for ₹2.2 crore. While others were surprised, industry experts thought it was quite the expected move. “Look, when teams settle for a player, they keep a lot of factors in mind. Smith is a great player, but his record in T20s has not been exceptional, and also his stint as the captain of Rajasthan Royals was forgettable. So, it is a proven fact that Smith – despite all his experience – still hasn’t mastered the format,” noted an industry expert who has been following IPL trends since the tournament’s inception in 2008.

That the teams were cautious with their choices was evident from the fact that Steve Smith hardly found any takers and was signed by Delhi Capitals for Rs2.2 crore.   -  PTI

 

The IPL’s mini auctions at times can be quite tricky. But with the core group settled, most franchises made calculative moves, with Mumbai Indians ending the auction by roping in Arjun Tendulkar at his base price of ₹20 lakh.

The son of the legend has been with the Mumbai outfit for a while as a net bowler, and the franchise think tank believes the environment will help him grow as a cricketer. After all, that’s what the IPL has done over the years: it has unearthed innumerable young talents!