Another year, another captivating auction day. The IPL player auctions are now an annual fixture on the calendar for all cricket followers, a day when the vast majority of us turn into market experts and number crunchers — and the IPL 2020 Auction, despite being a ‘mini’ one, produced a riveting afternoon of trades in Kolkata on Thursday, 19 December.
62 players — 29 overseas, 33 Indian; 32 capped, 30 uncapped — were bought for a combined total of INR 140.30 crore as the eight IPL franchises did their bit to bolster their respective setups ahead of IPL 2020. Pat Cummins was the biggest buy of the day, becoming the most expensive overseas buy at any auction in IPL history after Kolkata Knight Riders doled out INR 15.50 crore for Australian pacer; five others apart from Cummins saw their figures go beyond the million-dollar mark, while Piyush Chawla — surprise, surprise — was the most expensive Indian buy on the day, fetching an INR 6.75 crore bid from Chennai Super Kings.
We take a look at how auction day transpired, and what the events mean, for Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab — two teams at opposite ends of the IPL success spectrum, and thereby with polar opposite modes of operation at the auction hall on Thursday.
Chennai Super Kings
10 seasons, 10 knockout/playoff appearances, eight finals, three titles. The Chennai Super Kings rarely enter any of the ‘mini’ IPL auctions needing to do a lot, and that was true for this latest edition too: the Super Kings entered this one with a maximum of five slots to fill, and a purse of INR 14.60 available to do the same.
Players Bought: 4
Purse Spent: INR 14.45 crore
Purchases: Piyush Chawla (INR 6.75 cr), Sam Curran (INR 5.5 cr), Josh Hazlewood (INR 2 cr), R Sai Kishore (INR 20 lakh)
Yes, CSK were the team to make Chawla — a 30-year-old who last played an international game in 2012 — the most expensive Indian player of the IPL 2020 Auction, and that involved shelling out nearly half of the purse available to them on the day. Despite their limited funds, they also managed to rope in another big-money buy in Sam Curran, while also adding Australian seamer Josh Hazlewood and Tamil Nadu spinner R Sai Kishore to their mix going into IPL 2020.
What they did right
Chennai’s age dynamic needed slight correction (Dad’s Army and all that jazz, we’ve heard enough about it, haven’t we), and the addition of 21-year-old Curran will help bring down the average age. More vitally, though, the English all-rounder plugs the potential holes created by the dipping stocks of Shane Watson and, in particular, Dwayne Bravo.
While he didn’t do anything much worth attention in his maiden IPL season last year — 95 runs and 10 wickets (at an economy touching 10 per over) from nine games after getting INR 7.2 crore from Kings XI — Curran provides just the sort of multi-dimensional option that has been a constant feature in CSK lineups from 2008 to 2019. A batting strike rate above 150 in T20s this year, and a career bowling strike rate of 21 is proof of that. The knowledge that the likes of Watson and Bravo are at the twilight of their careers adds further weight to Curran’s signing, with the Super Kings probably identifying the young left-hander as one for a longer run with the franchise.
The wily trades of local lad Sai Kishore — the leading wicket-taker during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy earlier this year — might be a worthwhile investment too, coming as it did at the low base price of INR 20 lakh.
Where they missed out
If you go strictly by what transpired at the auction, the only ‘miss’ was Nathan Coulter-Nile — CSK went at it all the way with Mumbai Indians, before pulling out once their conquerors from the IPL 2019 final increased the bid to INR 8 crore. If the plan was to procure pace-bowling cover, they did manage to set things right by acquiring an alternate Aussie pacer in Hazlewood, even if at his seemingly high base price of INR 2 crore.
But one area where the three-time IPL champions required a fillip was in terms of destructive top- or middle-order batting options (especially given the possible fading and imminent departure of Watson). None of their regular batsmen barring MS Dhoni touched a strike rate of 130 in IPL 2019, yet, strangely, CSK didn’t once enter the market for any batting option.
That obviously implies the team management doesn’t believe this ‘gap’ is of any concern — but on a day when explosive batsmen as varied as Jason Roy, Chris Lynn and Tom Banton were sold at their base prices, could CSK have approached things a little differently? Surely a crore or two spent on a Banton could have a greater potential yield than a million dollars (almost) on a back-up spin-bowling option in a roster already bearing five full-fledged spinners?
— Chennai Super Kings (@ChennaiIPL) December 19, 2019
Which brings us to the shock purchase of the day — Piyush Chawla at Rs 6.75 crore, or nearly a million dollars. Rub your eyes, read that again. Chawla’s probably been doing the same himself since the sound of Hugh Edmeades’ hammer.
Chennai had five out-and-out spin bowlers within their ranks even before this auction: Ravindra Jadeja, Mitchell Santner, Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma. The last two of those names bowl exactly the variant of spin that Chawla does. If the idea was to have a leg-spinner to replace Tahir on days they want to field a different overseas combination, they already had Sharma — who they chose to retain at an INR 5 crore price-tag despite only one appearance last season.
Chawla, as many later pointed out, may have been the ‘lucky charm’ to Dhoni’s world title winning Indian teams in 2007 and 2011 — but 2007 and 2011 were a long, long time ago. And you don’t go out dishing a million dollars for a ‘lucky charm’. It’s money that could have been utilized better.
Potential Best XI
Faf du Plessis, Ruturaj Gaikwad/Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu/Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Sam Curran, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh/Piyush Chawla, Imran Tahir/Lungi Ngidi
Kings XI Punjab
12 seasons, two knockout/playoff appearances — the worst track record among the ever-present teams of the IPL. Polar opposite to the Super Kings, the Kings XI Punjab almost always enter IPL auctions with lots to do, and a lot to spend. This year, despite releasing a smaller number of players — seven, plus the transfer of captain Ravichandran Ashwin to Delhi Capitals — the Kings XI still had the biggest purse of all the eight teams at INR 42.70 crore, more than half the total balance of INR 85 crore available to each franchise.
Players Bought: 9
Purse Spent: INR 26.20 crore
Purchases: Glenn Maxwell (INR 10.75 cr), Sheldon Cottrell (INR 8.5 cr), Chris Jordan (INR 3 cr), Ravi Bishnoi (INR 2 cr), Prabhsimran Singh (INR 55 lakh), James Neesham (INR 50 lakh), Deepak Hooda (INR 50 lakh), Ishan Porel (INR 20 lakh), Tajinder Dhillon (INR 20 lakh).
The full might of Punjab’s purse power over their opponents on the day was visible in their capture of Glenn Maxwell, the second-most expensive signing of this auction. Their other big buy, also among the top-five expensive picks of the day, was Sheldon Cottrell. KXIP also added two shrewd overseas buys in Chris Jordan and James Neesham, but they finished the evening with INR 16.50 crore still left in their kitty — and that amount could have been utilized through the day’s proceedings.
What they did right
Middle-order finishers, all-rounders, fast bowlers and a captain. These were the things missing from the Kings XI arsenal before they entered the auction. They addressed the last of those absences immediately after the auction, announcing the decision to appoint KL Rahul as captain for IPL 2020. Through the day, they pulled off a decent shift by obtaining at least some reinforcements to plug the other three holes.
Maxwell, Neesham, Cottrell and Jordan, between them, fill out those gaps; Maxwell and Neesham, arguably, donning the twin hats of finishers as well as all-rounders (plus top-gun fielders).
The Aussie ‘Mad-Max’ might be coming off a break from the game, and might not have much to write home about in the IPL if you exclude the brief period played in the UAE in 2014 — but this is one of the ‘gun’ cricketers in this format, and, almost certainly, a purchase not just for the upcoming season but also for the three that will follow it.
In snapping Neesham — a truly ‘three-dimensional’ performer — at just his base price amount of INR 50 lakh, Punjab have got, arguably, the bargain buy of this IPL 2020 Auction.
Cottrell may have been a slight beneficiary of recency bias given his recent returns in India, but the bigger upshot of that buy is a quality seamer bringing a left-arm angle as well as variations for the death — in addition to bringing that famed salute to Punjab, of course. Jordan, meanwhile, is England’s best T20I pacer of recent years, and a well-travelled T20 mercenary.
Deepak Hooda will provide a decent squad option, and KXIP will hope at least one of their three under-21 picks — Ravi Bishnoi, Prabhsimran Singh and Ishan Porel — could show adequate potential to become future bets.
Where they missed out
While they did do a good job at filling out the gaping holes on their roster, Punjab had the bandwidth to correct other flaws in their setup too — especially considering the monster budget they had at their disposal.
With the exit of R Ashwin in the trading window, Mohammed Shami was left as the only capped Indian bowler in the squad. The other options? J Suchith, M Ashwin, Arshdeep Singh, Darshan Nalkande, and Krishnappa Gowtham, who was traded in from Rajasthan Royals once Ashwin departed.
You could look at the roster as it reads now, and point at the international recruits made at the auction as solutions — but how many out of Cottrell, Jordan, Hardus Viljoen and Mujeeb ur Rahman will Kings XI be able to field in a game, especially considering the other four overseas slots are filled by Maxwell, Neesham, Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran?
Rahul... naam toh suna hoga?
— Kings XI Punjab (@lionsdenkxip) December 19, 2019
What would have brought this unit closer to completion was the acquisition of quality, experienced Indian bowlers, and to be fair, Anil Kumble and the think-tank at the KXIP table did make attempts to do the same when they entered the fray for Chawla and Jaydev Unadkat. In both cases, they were the last to exit the fold — conceding Unadkat when the Royals touched the figure of INR 3 crore, and giving up on Chawla to CSK at INR 6.75 crore.
Through the day, they also went the distance, well, almost, for Robin Uthappa and Chris Morris, as well as uncapped trio Virat Singh, Priyam Garg and Kartik Tyagi.
Now take into account the INR 16.50 crore that they go back with, which, really, remains of scant use. While they may have found it difficult to prize Unadkat away from Rajasthan without having to overspend, consider the Chawla case — at the point Punjab gave up on their former leggie, Chennai only had a maximum of INR 2.35 crore left to avail, while Punjab still had upwards of INR 20 crore.
It’s the kind of auction table bullying you don’t often get to do; KXIP will hope they aren’t left to rue the ones that went away.
Potential Best XI
KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair/Sarfaraz Khan, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Deepak Hooda/Mandeep Singh, James Neesham, Krishnappa Gowtham, Sheldon Cottrell/Chris Jordan, Mohammed Shami, J Suchith/M Ashwin.
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