Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) stunned their unsuspecting rivals when they poached master blaster Chris Gayle from right under their noses.
The West Indian was brought back into the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction for the third time, towards the closing stages. By then, other teams had either run out of money or had already bought their full complement of eight overseas players. This encouraged a beaming Preity Zinta to enthusiastically hold up the paddle even before Gayle’s name was announced by the auctioneer.
She and her team were so pleased at having outsmarted the others that even minutes after the purchase, they were still grinning and high fiving each other.
Interestingly, the IPL giant's purchase drew a thunderous applause in the hall. Quite simply, most did not want see the last of the legend and hence enthusiastically cheered KXIP for bringing him back into the fold.
The last-minute shopping gave the 2014 runners-up a formidable batting unit, for they already had KL Rahul, Karun Nair, David Miller, Aaron Finch, Yuvraj Singh, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Agarwal and others in the bag. If anything they have a problem of plenty.
But considering their poor performance in the past, this was a situation they’d happily live with. Additionally, they also walked away with 16-year-old Afghan off-spinner Mujeeb Zadran, the youngest player in the tournament's history.
Another cricketing champion who was resurrected on the day was the Australian pace ace Mitchell Johnson, who was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) during the accelerated bidding period.
Johnson will join forces with another established left-arm quick from Australia, his successor Mitchell Starc. Hopefully the two would be a great inspiration for KKR’s emerging cricketer Shivam Mahi.
The 18 year-old Uttar Pradesh lad is a pace bowler to watch. His career was fast-forwarded after he was noticed in Delhi, and this stint with the two greats would do very well for him and the other Under-19 fast bowling sensation Kamlesh Nagarkoti.
KKR CEO Venky Mysore, who emptied his pockets to make a last-minute purchase of West Indian Javon Searless, revealed that since Knight Riders owned a team in the Caribbean Premier League as well as in South Africa's T20 Global League, they were aware of emerging talent in those countries too.
“Watch out for Searless. He won us the CPL championship,” he cheerfully said after the auction.
Mumbai Indians, who ensured that they had protected their assets on the first day, built the team around them. In Kieron Pollard, Jasprit Bumrah, Rohit Sharma, Pat Cummins, brothers Hardik and Krunal Pandya, they already had a solid core.
They reinforced the squad with some really smart purchases. The young Ishan Kishan was an inspired choice. They also bought Ben Cutting and Evan Lewis to add muscle to the squad.
Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) had made some excellent purchases on the first day and hence took it easy this morning. Later in the day they added the Afghanistan cricketer Mohammed Nabi and Punjab pacer Sandeep Sharma.
In the accelerated bidding round, SRH grabbed two good overseas pacers, Chris Jordan and Billy Stanlake.
Rajasthan Royals (RR) chairman Ranjit Barthakur revealed that all the teams looked impressive this time around as the franchises’ selection process had evolved over the years.
“We resort to excessive data analytics to validate our talent spotters and foot soldiers inputs. Then there are experienced former cricketers with an eye for talent to help identify players on whom we could rely in the near future. All teams do this now and hence the choice of players is better than what it used to be in the past.”
Rajasthan went aggressively after Jaydev Unadkat, who at Rs 11.5 crore, became the most expensive Indian purchase at the auction. RR also grabbed Karnataka all-rounder K Goutham for a whopping Rs 6.2 crore.
Royal Challengers Bangalore bought Parthiv Patel on a second thought. By then they had bought young spinners Washington Sundar and Murugan Ashwin. Their bowlers for the slog overs would be a toss up between Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Nathan-Coulter Nile and Tim Southee.
Delhi Daredevils had an impressive day on Saturday and they followed through by purchasing Australian all-rounder Dan Christian, Kiwi Trent Boult and Sandeep Lamichhane, the first ever cricketer from Nepal to bag an IPL contract.
Chennai Super Kings (CSK) came up with some inspired selections, particularly the Kerala fast bowler KM Asif, who has a reputation for sending down searing yorkers. CSK also bagged the impressive Kiwi left arm spinner Mitchell Santner. They bought the pacy South African Lungi Ngidi and later recalled Murali Vijay to ensure they had an enviable mix of proven veterans and young, exciting talent.
In short this IPL auction has been the finest ever in the distribution and choice of players. The teams overall seem superbly matched. If they get their choice of captain right and, of course strike a balance between domestic and overseas players for each and every match, the 2018 IPL could be one of the most open one yet.