No downturn for Republic of IPL
The Indian Premier League has proved yet again that it continues to be an inflation proof cricketing extravaganza. At the players’ auction in Bangalore on Monday, any worries of a downturn in the IPL economy were thrown to the winds as stars and greenhorns went under the hammer.
England’s Ben Stokes, who many believe is the world’s most destructive all-rounder going, had a base price of Rs 2 crore. On Monday, he was picked up by Rising Pune Supergiants for Rs 14.5 crore – just over the Rs 14 crore bid for Indian star Yuvraj Singh as the most expensive player of IPL 2014 and under Rs 16 crore Yuvraj commanded in 2015. However, Stokes commanded much more than the price for the most expensive player of IPL 2016 – Australia’s Shane Watson, who had been picked up for Rs 9.5 crore by Royal Challengers Bangalore. (See accompanying table)
Fast bowlers and all-rounders were the most sought-after players at the IPL auction. Rising Pune Supergiants bought Stokes, known for his power hitting and fast bowling, after Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils pitched hard for the English all-rounder before bowing out of the race. In fact, Stokes was at the centre of some power hitting by the franchisees before he was picked up by the Pune team.
Rising Pune Supergiants coach Stephen Fleming outlined the strategy behind picking Stokes, saying: “He is a form all-rounder. We wanted to bolster on that front. It's a gamble, we have got good young Indian players. We are going to put youngsters under big players and keep our fingers crossed. It's a risk but we are ready to take it. We have got all-round options and gives us more options down the order.”
In fact, this IPL auction, with franchisees sitting with spreadsheets and laptops, was perhaps concentrated more on strategic buying and bidding than in previous years. The franchises had come prepared with base information. The spotters had kept a watch on the upcoming talent and tracked their performances in the domestic events. There was no scope for major changes as the teams topped up their strength.
Kolkata Knight Riders CEO Venky Mysore made it abundantly clear that the bidding process was based on sound strategy. “There is a general sense that wickets around the country are changing. Even in Kolkata, they have relaid the pitch. When we travel away, teams are not giving us spinning tracks. But we have Piyush, Shakib, Kuldeep, who're good. We had a little bit of spin bias. We needed more balance, and that's why we needed a solid bowling attack,” he said.
Supergiants just days ago had sacked M.S. Dhoni as captain and replaced him with Aussie Steven Smith. The team had finished second last under Dhoni in the last outing. But Stokes will still be only the second most expensive player in IPL 2017 behind Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore who gets Rs 15 crore per season.
Stokes’ England team-mate Tymal Mills was the second biggest gainer as he was lapped up by Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 12 crore. The left-arm fast bowler has struck big as the franchises went gunning for pacers. Mills has been known to routinely send down screamers at 90mph.
In fact, the franchises did not go overboard with purchases as they stuck to strategic and tactical buying. For most of the teams, it was more of adjusting nuts and bolts in their machinery and they went for players that could fix into the frame.
This explains some of the surprise omissions top players. Pakistan-born South African leg spinner Imran Tahir, who boasts of the best T20 record, found no buyers. Ishant Sharma, a member of the current Indian Test team, was also left out and so was all-rounder Irfan Pathan, who has been struggling to get back into the national side. Cheteshwar Pujara, who despite his Test record has a strike rate of 105 in T20s, was also overlooked at the auction.
If Imran Tahir was left out in the cold, Afghanistan’s spinner Rashid Khan and all-rounder Mohammad Nabi made their entry into IPL. It was a bonanza for little known leggie Rashid Khan who was bought for an astronomical Rs 4 crore by Sunrisers Hyderabad. He struck big in his IPL debut when his team mate went for Rs 30 lakh. Rashid’s base price was Rs 50 lakh.
The biggest gainer perhaps was little known left arm pacer T.Natarajan from Tamil Nadu. Having a base price of Rs 10 lakh, he was sold to Kings XI Punjab for Rs 3 crore. Other lesser-known Indian cricketers who made it big were spinner Krishnappa Gowtham and medium pacer Aniket Choudhary. Gowtham was bought by the Mumbai Indians, while Royal Challengers Bangalore bought Choudhary for Rs 2 crore.
South African pacer Kasigo Rabada was purchased for Rs 5 crore by Delhi Daredevils.
The pacers commanded some of the highest price tags. South African speedster Kasigo Rabada was purchased by Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders paid Rs 5 crore for Trent Boult. Delhi Daredevils bought Aussie Pat Cummins for Rs 4.5 crore.
Shah Rukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders, looking for their third IPL title, went for the maximum purchases buying nine players on Monday, the maximum by any team. Kings XI Punjab have packed their team with domestic bowlers, with England’s short-format skipper Eoin Morgan being their best purchase.
There were as many as 17 domestic players who went for their base price of Rs 10 lakh. Almost all the franchises packed their teams with Rs 10 lakh players. Kolkata Knight Riders bought Sayan Ghose, a right handed batsman for Rs 10 lakh and Gujarat Lions paid an equal amount for Akashdeep Nath, a middle order batsman. Another batsman Ishank Jaggi was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs 10 lakh.