Punjab’s Harbhajan Singh will play for Chennai Super Kings, while Tamil Nadu’s Ravichandran Ashwin will don the red of Kings XI Punjab in the 11th season of the Indian Premier League, after an interesting first day of the player auction.
A looming court case involving a brawl outside a pub hardly did any harm for England all-rounder Ben Stokes. The 26-year-old is set to become the most expensive purchase for the second year running, even though he went for Rs 2 crore fewer than the Rs 14.5 crore he commanded last season.
Stokes, who was the player of the tournament last year, will play for the Rajasthan Royals in IPL 11, where he will team up with Australia captain Steve Smith again. Among the other highest paid cricketers this season were India’s Manish Pandey and KL Rahul (both Rs 11 crore), and Australians Chris Lynn (Rs 9.6 crore) and Mitchell Starc (Rs 9.4 crore).
This auction was never meant to break any bid records considering it is almost a complete reboot, with franchises allowed to retain only up to five players. At the end of the day one, while some franchises reached near the minimum squad strength mark of 18, others were still a long way off.
Here is what each franchise managed to do on day one and what they need to do on Sunday.
Chennai Super Kings
What’s sorted: All-rounders, spinners
What’s needed: Openers, fast bowlers
The Chennai Super Kings expectedly chose to use one of their Right to Match cards on Dwayne Bravo and while R Ashwin was expected to get the second, it went to Faf du Plessis. CSK chose to go with veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh instead and could also bid for young Washington Sundar on Sunday.
CSK have got their middle-order (Suresh Raina, Du Plessis, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav) and all-rounders (Bravo, Shane Watson, Ravindra Jadeja) sorted. They also have a good spin attack with Harbhajan, Imran Tahir and Karn Sharma.
However, they are lacking in the fast bowling department, with Bravo and Watson the only options, and would be looking to buy a few on Sunday. They would also be in the market for some opening batsmen.
Total players in squad: 11
What’s sorted: Batting, mostly
What’s needed: Spinners, back-up fast bowlers
Gautam Gambhir will make an emotional return to the Delhi Daredevils, where he will form an explosive opening pair with England’s Jason Roy. Glenn Maxwell, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant will follow in the DD batting line-up, but they would be looking to add some more depth. Chris Morris headlines the all-rounders along with Colin Munro but there is space for a couple more.
Delhi have a couple of world-class fast bowlers in Mohammed Shami and Kagiso Rabada, with youngsters Harshal Patel and Aveesh Khan as back-up, but might want a couple more internationals. The Daredevils are severely lacking in terms of spin options, with Amit Mishra being the only genuine option.
Total players in squad: 15
Kings XI Punjab
What’s sorted: All-rounders
What’s needed: Wicketkeepers, fast bowlers, batsmen
Kings XI did not do a lot of shopping on day one – albeit not by choice – and they have got almost Rs 22 crore to spend on Sunday. Punjab would be looking for more specialist batsman, their current options being only India’s KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and David Miller. They’ve got some good all-rounders in Yuvraj Singh and Marcus Stoinis but need some fast bowlers, with Ankit Rajpoot being the only option so far. Axar Patel and Yuvraj provide good spin options but a couple more specialists would not hurt.
Kings XI are also the only franchise that did not purchase a single wicketkeeper on day one, so that will also be high on their priority list.
Total players in squad: 10
Kolkata Knight Riders
What’s sorted: All-rounders, spinners
What’s needed: Batsmen, fast bowlers
Kolkata Knight Riders raised a few eyebrows when they did not go for Gambhir, who led them to two IPL titles in the last six years. This means they will have to shop for an opening batsman to partner Robin Uthappa. In terms of batting, they’ve got Chris Lynn, Dinesh Karthik and youngsters Shubhman Gill and Ishank Jaggi but would be looking to add some more experience.
Retainees Andre Russell and Sunil Narine make up the all-rounders along with Nitish Rana, who played well for champions Mumbai Indians last year. But a couple more wouldn’t hurt.
Kuldeep Yadav and Piyush Chawla make up a good spin-bowling attack but Mitchell Starc has got no one to partner him in the pace arsenal apart from India U-19 star Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who went for a cool Rs 3 crore.
As a result, KKR haven’t got a lot of money left (Rs 7.6 crore) and need to buy another six players minimum with that amount on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how they allocate their budget.
Total players in squad: 12
What’s sorted: Fast bowlers, all-rounders
What’s needed: Batsmen, spinners, wicketkeeper
Mumbai Indians purchased the least amount of players on the first day – nine – along with Rajasthan Royals. While they need to buy at least nine more, they’ve got just under Rs 16 crore to buy them.
MI will primarily be looking for batsmen, with captain Rohit Sharma being the only specialist in the squad so far. They will also want another wicketkeeper to give competition to young Ishan Kishan. Mumbai have got some good all-rounders in the Pandya brothers, Kieron Pollard and Suryakumar Yadav, so they are sorted in that aspect.
They’ve also got a good pace battery with Jasprit Bumrah, Mustafizur Rahman and Pat Cummins, but may look to add some more Indian options. However, they don’t have a single specialist spinner, after letting Harbhajan go to CSK so that will be high on the priority list as well.
Total players in squad: 9
What’s sorted: Batsmen, all-rounders
What’s needed: Bowlers, Indians
Known as the Moneyball team in the IPL in previous seasons, Rajasthan Royals were anything but... if their strategy on day one is to be considered. The Royals bagged the most expensive player in the auction so far in Stokes (Rs 12.5 crore).
Rajasthan have an enviable batting line-up in Smith, Rahane, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler and Rahul Tripathi. Stokes and Stuart Binny provide a good back-up to the batters along with Big Bash League star all-rounders D’Arcy Short and Jofra Archer.
However, out of the nine players that the Royals purchased on Saturday, none were specialist bowlers. And as many as five of them were overseas players. The Royals have Rs 23.5 crore left in their kitty and they’ve got some work to do on Sunday to add some balance to their squad. And some Indians.
Total players in squad: 9
Royal Challengers Bangalore
What’s sorted: Batsmen, all-rounders, fast bowlers
What’s needed: Spinners, Indian wicketkeeper
If Royal Challengers Bangalore get below 180 in any match, they should really be ashamed of themselves. Their decision to not retain or purchase Chris Gayle was surprising but they made up for it by picking an equally destructive Brendon McCullum. They’ve also got Manan Vohra to add to the strength of retainees Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Sarfaraz Khan.
Chris Woakes, Colin de Grandhomme and Moeen Ali make up the all-rounders, while Umesh Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal lead the bowlers, which include some promising Indian pacers such as Navdeep Saini. RCB have bought 14 players already and will be looking to add some more spinners with that remaining Rs 15.85 crore. They might also want to get an Indian wicketkeeper to add to Quinton de Kock, just to give them some more flexibility with the overseas cap.
Total players in squad: 14
What’s sorted: Mostly everything
What’s needed: A spinner or two
The Sunrisers bought the most number of players on day one of the auction across all teams – 16 – and unsurprisingly look the most sorted team of all. They’ve still got almost Rs 8 crore to spend on Sunday, which shows how meticulous their auction strategy has been.
Sunrisers easily have the most loaded pace arsenal of all teams so far, with as many as six in the squad led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Rashid Khan is the lone specialist spinner and while he has support in all-rounders Shakib Al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan, they might want to add at least one more proper spinner.
SRH’s batting line-up, like RCB, is very strong, led by captain David Warner, and should be one to reckon with in the upcoming season.
Total players in squad: 16