Another Indian Premier League auction has come and gone and nothing has really changed. Just like every other year, the form book was ripped to shreds on Saturday and there were surprises at every turn. A lucky few were sold for extraordinary sums while many did not even get an opening bid.
Australian all-rounder Shane Watson was the most expensive buy, bought for Rs 9 crore by the Royal Challengers Bangalore. But there were plenty of other talking points from the IPL auction held on Saturday in Bengaluru.
1. No takers for double centurion Guptill
There are only six cricketers who have scored a double century in One Day International cricket. Only one of them has done so in a knockout match at the World Cup. That cricketer is New Zealand’s Martin Guptill who smashed an unbeaten 237 in the quarter-final of the 2015 World Cup against West Indies in Wellington.
Unfortunately, that was not good enough for the eight IPL franchises. Before the auction, it was widely speculated that Guptill would be one of the most sought-after cricketers. But the announcement of his name at the auction was met with a deafening silence.
He was brought back to the bidding table twice thereafter, but the response was the same. Social media went into overdrive with cricket fans trying to make sense of how a player with a Twenty20 International strike rate of more then 120 could not merit even a single bid. Some harped on about Guptill still being untested on Indian pitches but perhaps it is best not to try to find any logic. This is, after all, the mad world of the Indian Premier League and stranger things have happened.
2. At Rs 8.5 crore, Pawan Negi just hit payday
Pawan Negi, 23, has played only three first class matches for Delhi but is already in line for his international Twenty20 debut in next week's series against Sri Lanka. On Saturday, Negi had even more to celebrate – the moment his name came up, there was an immediate flurry of activity among the bidders. From a base price of just Rs 30 lakh, the bid for acquiring Negi’s services skyrocketed into astronomical territory. The all-rounder must have been positively beaming once the auction ended later in the evening – his Rs 8.5 crore winning bid by the Delhi Daredevils was the highest sum of money paid to an Indian player at this year’s auction.
3. Delhi Daredevils are either plain silly or incredibly intelligent
It is difficult to fathom the Delhi Daredevils’ tactics on auction day. They had bought Yuvraj Singh for a record Rs 16 crore last year. He turned out to be a miserable failure for them. Though they thankfully did not do something similar this time round, some of their buying decisions on Saturday made little business sense.
Here is a brief summary of what the Daredevils did on auction day. Before splurging on Negi, they got into a furious bidding war for the services of South African all-rounder Chris Morris, finally acquiring his services for a mind-blowing Rs 7 crore. While Morris’ figures in the IPL look handy (an average of 22 with the bat and 25 with the ball), it is worth wondering whether he was worth that kind of money.
But that was not all. The Daredevils splurged Rs 4.2 crore on little-known West Indian all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite and then loaded their team with three wicket-keepers in Kerala’s Sanju Samson, India Under-19's Rishabh Pant and England’s Sam Billings. This is in addition to Quinton de Kock, South Africa’s wicket-keeper, who had already been retained previously.
4. The sky is the limit for young, talented Indian cricketers
Much conversation after an IPL auction often revolves around which player turned out to be the most expensive buy, but it is also worth examining the prices franchisees pay for the services of players in relation to their base prices. And going by the buying behaviour this time round, it is evident that franchisees are willing to go the whole hog if they detect potential in a young Indian cricketer.
Negi was the best example of this, finishing with Rs. 8.5 crore, compared to his original base price of just Rs 30 lakh. But there were more – Rajasthan’s 24-year old Karun Nair was snapped up by Delhi for Rs 4 crore, 40 times his base price of Rs 10 lakh. His former Rajasthan team-mate, Deepak Hooda, went for even more, going for 42 times his base price of Rs 10 lakh to finish with Rs 4.2 crore from the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
But the biggest shock of the day arrived when Murugan Ashwin, an unknown 25-year old leg-spinner’s name was announced. Ashwin has never played an IPL match, has only played three first class matches and six domestic Twenty20s. But the Rising Pune Super Giants had obviously seen something in him which no one else had – the 25-year old Ashwin was sold for Rs 4.5 crore, 45 times his base price.
5. It may be India, but pace is pace
India is generally considered to be a spinner’s paradise and a pace bowler’s graveyard, but the eight franchises thought otherwise. Almost every IPL team ensured that they picked up at least one valuable pace asset, thus demonstrating that irrespective of the conditions, a good pace bowler is worth his weight in gold.
The Gujarat Lions were the frontrunners in this regard, opting for the fiery pace of South Africa’s Dale Steyn, along with the Indian medium-pace duo of Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni. Kings XI Punjab were subdued through the day but their one big buy of Rs 6.5 crore was former Chennai Super Kings fast bowler Mohit Sharma. The Kolkata Knight Riders decided to opt for the left-arm pace of Jaidev Unadkat while Mumbai Indians emerged with the exciting Nathu Singh, a promising young fast bowler from Rajasthan.
Rising Pune Super Giants also ensured that their pace batteries would be loaded, picking up the trio of Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan and Ashok Dinda. Bangalore went for Aussie blood and included Kane Richardson in their ranks, while the Sunrisers Hyderabad went for the left-arm duo of Ashish Nehra and Barinder Sran.
Delhi might not have bid heavily for a recognised pace bowler, but they probably don’t need one – they have already retained the evergreen Zaheer Khan who is more than a match for anybody.
A full summary of the IPL auction can be found here.