A little over Rs 431 crore was spent by the eight franchises during the IPL 2018 auction to buy 169 players (56 of them from overseas). From their salary cap of Rs 80 crore, Rajasthan Royals spent Rs 24 crore on just two players – Ben Stokes and Jaydev Unadkat – a deviation from their ‘moneyball strategy’ (characterised by thrift and prudence). The top-10 buys of this year’s auction accounted for 21.2% (Rs 91.8 crore) of all the money spent. But were they worth all that money?

Ben Stokes (RR): 12.5 crore

Considering his staggering price tag, Ben Stokes perhaps was the biggest flop of the season. For the second straight season, Stokes was the costliest buy in the auction (he was pocketed by the Rising Pune Supergiant in the 2017 season for Rs 14.5 crore). But the England all-rounder, who’d missed a significant part of the 2017 international season and the beginning of 2018, was just a shadow of himself with the bat and the ball. Stokes is seeking form since returning from a forced break due to a nightclub brawl in Bristol. The 37-ball 45 against the Chennai Super Kings and and a spell of three for 15 against Kolkata Knight Riders – both came in a losing cause – were the best returns that the Royals could get from Stokes in the season. He also had to return to the English side for the Test series against Pakistan towards the end of the season, just when it seemed like he was finding his form.

Matches Runs Strike rate Highest score
13 196 121.73 45
Balls Wickets Economy rate  Best spell
222 8 8.18 3/15

Jaydev Unadkat (RR): 11.5 crore

The pacer from Saurashtra was expected to strike it rich after his happy returns from the previous season. Unadkat had, for the Rising Pune Supergiant, picked up 24 wickets at an economy rate of 7.02. He also ended up as the man of the series against the Sri Lankans in a T20 series when they had toured India last December. So, it made sense that the Rajasthan Royals were in hot pursuit of him. But his form dipped as the season began. And, he was not even among the top-25 in the leading wicket-takers list.

“Variations are the most important part of the game,” he had said during the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka. “To play with batsman’s mind, you need variations. When the batsman is expecting something and you do it differently, we are successful as bowlers.”

And sure enough, Unadkat wasn’t picking wickets like he did in the previous season as the batsman were picking him easily.

Balls Wickets Economy rate  Best spell
302 11 9.65 3/46

KL Rahul (KXIP): 11 crore

These are Rahul’s numbers in the tournament: 14 matches. 659 runs. Average 54.91. Strike rate 158.41. Six fifties. 66 fours. 32 sixes. This was, by far, Rahul’s best IPL season. This also ranks among the best IPL seasons any batsman has ever had. Even as the Kings XI Punjab plummeted after winning five out of their first six games, Rahul was their lone bright spot. He scored a couple of nineties that ended up in defeats for KXIP and heartbreak for Rahul. He made six fifties during the tournament, including the fastest one ever scored in the IPL, and was in the form of his life. Rahul, if KXIP had qualified for the play-offs, might have ended up as the leading run-scorer of the tournament. From a thin, timid batsman with under-utilised talent four years ago, Rahul, this season, was a Zen warrior.

And don’t forget, as the only recognised wicket-keeper in the squad, Rahul was solid behind the stumps as well.

Money well spent, truly.

Matches Runs Strike rate Highest score
14 659 158.41 95*

Manish Pandey (SRH): 11 crore

The good performances in the last season might have helped Manish Pandey get into the Indian limited-overs setup. In 2017, Pandey made four short of 400 runs for the Kolkata Knight Riders at a strike-rate of 128.57. But his performances in the middle order for India this year – 255 runs in 7 innings at an average of 85 – probably persuaded Sunrisers, traditionally a top-heavy side, to get him for 11 crore to stabilise their middle order.

But Pandey had more misses than hits this season. Barring the 38-ball unbeaten 62 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in a losing cause, the Karnataka batsman failed to impress throughout the season. His failure burdened the top-order more and the team was over-dependent on Shikhar Dhawan and Kane Williamson at the top. Pandey’s strike rate of 115.84 is only the seventh-highest even among his teammates with over 100 runs.

Consequence? Being left out of the side in the playoffs.

Matches Runs Strike rate Highest score
15 284 115.44 62*

Chris Lynn (KKR): 9.6 crore

With 491 runs in 16 games at a strike-rate 130.23, Chris Lynn certainly didn’t have a bad IPL. But this was a different Lynn one saw in a T20 tournament. He has a reputation of being a force of nature that wrecks teams and makes a mockery of challenging totals (sample: the 68-ball 93 that he scored against Gujarat Lions last year that helped KKR chase down 184 with 10 wickets and 30 balls to spare). A shoulder injury has hampered his backlift, reduced his powerhits and lowered his strike rate. But Lynn’s found out a new way to bat. With his carefree opening partner Sunil Narine, trying to hit whatever’s thrown at him out of the park, Lynn has been allowed to take it slow. But the Aussie, despite his injury, was still a threat to pacers and his opening partnerships with Narine launched KKR to quick starts, especially in chases of big totals.

Matches Runs Strike rate Highest score
16 491 130.23 74

Mitchell Starc: 9.4 crore

Did not play. And what a pity that is.

Glenn Maxwell (DD): 9 crore

Glenn Maxell, throughout his career, has either been a supergenius who’s capable of hitting cricket balls in ways that have never been thought of before or a desperate seeker of form. He was the latter in this IPL. After his 58-ball 103 against England in February this year, Maxwell in 15 T20 innings (including 12 in this IPL) has coughed up only three 30-plus scores. His 22-ball 47 whilst chasing 201 against KKR offered a flicker of hope but that was his last score of 30-plus in the tournament. He also dropped sitters and once got run out while being out of the non-strikers end. All in all, a forgettable tournament for The Big Show. He has been dropped from the Australia A squads for the one-dayers and the four-dayers in India that begins in August.

It’s perhaps time to stop paying the big bucks for the Big Show, in hope.

Matches Runs Strike rate Highest score
12 169 140.83 47

Rashid Khan (SRH): 9 crore

Rashid Khan recently conceded in an interview to The Times of India that he’s probably the most famous person in his country after the President. Well, why won’t he be? At just 19, Rashid’s a nightmare to batsmen in a format that’s said to favour them. And if there’s any mystery to Rashid’s bowling – as suggested by MS Dhoni – the cricket franchises over the world, with their exhaustive data and fancy video analyses, haven’t been able to uncover it for the last three years. Barring three games, Rashid, went for less than eight runs per over every match this IPL.

When his exploits with the ball weren’t enough, Rashid hit a 10-ball 34, took two catches and effected a run-out to get Sunrisers Hyderabad to the final. One would say after Rashid’s performances this season, he was – at Rs 9 crore – a steal for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Balls  Wickets Economy rate Best spell
408 21 6.73 3/19

Krunal Pandya (MI): 8.8 crore

Krunal, the elder among the Pandya brothers, was the costliest uncapped player of this season. And, the team management decided to have him back for this season as he’s been consistent with the bat and the ball for them since his IPL debut in 2016. In an otherwise ordinary season for the 2017 champions, Krunal and the rookie leg-spinner Mayank Markande have been the bright spots. With Mumbai struggling at 120/4 in 15.3 overs in a chase of 177 against the Kings XI Punjab in a do-or-die contest, Pandya’s 12-ball 31 took his team over the line. But with more losses, Mumbai, for the fourth time in IPL, were knocked out in the league stage.

Balls Wickets Economy rate Best spell
241 12 7.07 3/28
Matches Runs Strike rate Highest score
14 228 145.22 41*

Sanju Samson (RR): 8 crore

Sanju Samson had an amazing start to IPL 2018 with scores of 42-ball 49, 22-ball 37 and a blazing 45-ball unbeaten 92. It seemed like the highly talented Kerala stumper would go on to accumulate over 500 runs in the season. But demoting him to No 4 from No 3, reduced the yield of his runs. In eight innings at one down, he made 295 runs at 42.14. At No 4 he could make only 146 in seven innings at 20.85.

A tale of two halves for Samson.

Matches Runs Strike rate Highest score
15 441 137.81 92*