The Premier T20 league in world cricket is less than two months away, once again. This means, on Monday, all paths led to the opening salvo fired by its 10th edition – the all-popular, all-consuming player auction, led by master rapid-fire auctioneer Richard Madley, for the eight Indian teams.
The first match will be played between last year’s finalists – defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad and Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore – on April 5.
On Monday, a total of 66 players – 39 Indians, 27 overseas – were bought for INR 91.15 crore to add to the core squad of the eight teams in question. INR 66.4 crore was spent on the overseas players. The pleasant surprise, however, was the purchase of three associate players – the first time this has ever happened. Two Afghans, Rashid Khan (a whopping INR 4 crore) and Mohammad Nabi, along with UAE’s Chirag Suri, were bought. The last and only associate player to feature in the years was Netherlands’ Ryan ten Doeschate for Kolkata Knight Riders.
Less than a year after Ben Stokes went through the worst moment of his promising career – a last-over assault by West Indies' Carlos Brathwaite in the World T20 final – the English all-rounder became the most expensive overseas player in franchise T20 history. He was bought by the Rising Pune Supergiants – who replaced M.S. Dhoni’s leadership with Steve Smith’s – for a stunning INR 14.5 crore. Yuvraj Singh remains the most expensive buy ever, when Delhi Daredevils shelled out INR 16 crore for him a few years ago. Karn Sharma, bought by Mumbai Indians, was the most expensive Indian buy at INR 3.2 crore. Tymal Mills, the English quick who we saw a little of during England’s T20 series against India last month, a T20 specialist in the death overs, was bought for an extraordinary INR 12 crore by RCB to replace quick Mitchell Starc. This was the highest amount ever paid for a bowler in Premier league history.
Sunrisers played smart as usual, buying Chris Jordan as backup for Bangladeshi youngster Mustafizur Rahman (who helped them win the title last year), making David Warner’s outfit the best bowling team once again.
KKR bought Kiwi quick Trent Boult for INR 5 crore and Chris Woakes for 4.2 – both crucial decisions that could help them compete for the title.
Mumbai Indians didn’t play smart as usual, but their best buy was Sri Lankan newbie opener Asela Gunaratne for a steal of INR 30 lakh. West Indies youngster Nicholas Pooran was also a good buy for them for his base price – the batsman had single-handedly won them matches in last year’s U-19 World Cup.
Delhi Daredevils bolstered their bowling with good buys: Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins and Corey Anderson at decent prices. Angelo Mathews, though, is their best decision. The South Africans will leave in early May for a series, which means that Cummins and Anderson will partner Mohammed Shami and Zaheer Khan upfront towards the business end.
Probably the most profitable buy of the season went to Gujarat Lions – who got swashbuckling English sensation Jason Roy for INR 1 crore. Rising Pune Supergiants bought Ben Stokes, but Manoj Tiwary will make a good addition to their stuttering middle order.
Kings XI Punjab didn’t enjoy themselves much, but managed Eoin Morgan and Martin Guptill, as well as Matt Henry and Darren Sammy for throwaway prices. Dark horses, as always. They need more bowlers, though.
No takers for Alex Hales? Well, try this. No takers for Jonny Bairstow, Ishant Sharma, Imran Tahir (currently the top ranked T20 bowler) and teen sensation Prithvi Shaw (big mistake). Nobody bought Marlon Samuels either, as well as Aussie T20 monster Nic Maddenson, David Weise, Jason Holder, Thisara Perrera, RP Singh, Colin Munro, Mitchell Santner (seriously!), Manwinder Bisla, Pragyan Ojha, Nathan Lyon, Jimmy Neesham, Ross Taylor and Kyle Abbott. Irfan Pathan was the least of the shockers, really. Delhi could have really done with Tahir, and Mumbai could have done with the all-round abilities of Santner, Bairstow and Neesham. Instead they chose Mitchell Johnson, a bowler well past his prime (and career). Gujarat needed the pace of Abbott and the smarts of Weise; they continue to be top-heavy with Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Jason Roy, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo and Dinesh Karthik crowding the middle order. Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja are their trump cards though.
Left-arm seamer T Natarajan, the son of a Tamil Nadu daily-wage worker, went for 30 times his base price of INR 10 lakh. Another right-arm quick Mohammed Siraj went for INR 2.6 crore. Heartwarming as their stories are, this doesn’t reflect their talent as much as it does the whims and vague needs of the conservative franchises. There will be immense pressure on their debuts, which may not work in favor of the unassuming – they aren’t exactly young either – cricketers. Here’s hoping they arrest some headlines and live it up a bit before the same teams contrive to discard their services next year. An example, Murugan Ashwin, one of the best spinners of last year for Rising Pune Supergiants, was bought by the Daredevils this year at a far cheaper price.