Cricket

IPL 2020 Auction: Kolkata Knight Riders spend big to fill in gaps; Sunrisers Hyderabad bank on youngsters

  • Rohit Sankar
  • December 20th, 2019
  • 10:31:06 IST

It was as contrasting an auction as any for Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders. While the Knight Riders chose to splurge on fast bowler Pat Cummins, snapping him up for the second-highest bid in the history of IPL auctions, Sunrisers spent less than Rs 8 crores overall in acquiring seven new players.

While the two franchises usually prefer to retain their core group of players, Kolkata had to go left-field prior to this auction after their perennial Indian stars underperformed on a consistent basis. With no such worries for Sunrisers, the onus was primarily on filling a few voids in the middle-order. Here we take a glance at their performances in the auction on Thursday.

Kolkata Knight Riders

Kolkata Knight Riders had the second-highest wallet balance as they went into the auction on Thursday and flaunted it lavishly, acquiring some big guns in Pat Cummins – for no less than a whopping Rs 15.5 crores – and Eoin Morgan at Rs 5.25 crores. The priority for Kolkata at the auction table was to find a pace bowling spearhead for their directionless pace attack and also garner some support for Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell in the middle-order.


With two big buys in the first 45 minutes of the auction, Kolkata filled those loopholes, leaving them with less than Rs 15 crores to fill two overseas and a maximum of nine places in all. The franchise acquired the services of mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy – who bagged the highest bid last year at Rs 8.4 crores - for Rs 4 crores to fill the spinners’ spots left vacant by Piyush Chawla and KC Cariappa.

In England’s dynamic 21-year old sensation Tom Banton, KKR found the perfect value-for-money buy to replace the expensive Chris Lynn at the top. Chris Green, the 48-year old Pravin Tambe, Manimaran Siddharth and middle-order wicket-keeper batsman Nikhil Naik were all acquired at their base price in the final frenetic moments where Kolkata held their own. Rahul Tripathi, at Rs 60 lakh, is another excellent buy for the franchise, which was seeking to find a replacement for Robin Uthappa in the top-order.

Retained squad: Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill, Lockie Ferguson, Nitish Rana, Sandeep Warrier, Harry Gurney, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Prasidh Krishna, Rinku Singh, Siddhesh Lad (Trade-in)

New additions: Eoin Morgan (Rs 5.25 cr), Pat Cummins (Rs 15.5 cr), Rahul Tripathi (Rs 60 lakh), Varun Chakravarthy (Rs 4 cr), Manimaran Siddharth (Rs 20 lakh), Nikhil Naik (Rs 20 lakh), Pravin Tambe (Rs 20 lakh), Tom Banton (Rs 1 cr), Chris Green (Rs 20 lakh)

Auction Performance – analyzing the new buys

What stood out in an excellent auction for Kolkata Knight Riders was their willingness to splurge on the right players while playing the waiting game to acquire some bargain buys. The biggest holes KKR had to fill were in the middle-order (where Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell were under too much pressure) and in the pace bowling department. They were early to plug this by splashing a large chunk of their bank balance on Cummins and Morgan.

By acquiring Cummins, KKR have reduced the pressure on their young domestic pacers – the likes of Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Prasidh Krishna and Shivam Mavi – and also found a fantastic exponent of the new ball. On a surface like at the Eden Gardens, Cummins will be a tough proposition for a lot of teams, and in dishing out cash to bring the seamer in, KKR showed good awareness.

Eoin Morgan during the ODI World Cup. Reuters

Eoin Morgan during the ODI World Cup. Reuters

Morgan will act as the middle-order anchor alongside Dinesh Karthik, although he is capable of exploding the Russell way. The England skipper should also ideally be given the reins of the side to reduce pressure on Karthik.

Having spent a lot of cash on these two, KKR chose to sit back for a while and then grew more active as the auction drew towards a close. The spin department – although it had Kuldeep Yadav and Sunil Narine – could have used a bit of beefing up and they rightly spent on domestic spinners who have been hitting the right notes of late: Varun Chakravarthy and Manimaran Siddharth were worthy additions in this regard. Pravin Tambe, who was acquired at base price, could be handier off the field in helping these young spinners.

Realising that Sunil Narine’s effectiveness is on the wane, KKR chose to bring in another spinner capable of bowling in the powerplays and going berserk with the bat. Chris Green is a Big Bash League product, a complete wanderlust in the world of franchise cricket, and will add some flair to the bowling attack. Given his performances in different leagues across the globe, do not be surprised if Green goes on to become a mainstay in the playing XI next season.

Verdict

KKR had an excellent auction on Thursday and managed to pick up the right players that can lend them balance even if it cost them a bit. They might have missed out on picking a back-up for Andre Russell, who is injury-prone, but then with Morgan, Karthik and the likes of Nitish Rana available in the middle-order, the line-up packs a punch. In Banton, Green and a couple of domestic spinners, KKR also found some good value-for-money buys to boost their chances for the 2020 season.

Predicted XI

Rahul Tripathi, Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Eoin Morgan, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy, Pat Cummins, Kuldeep Yadav, Kamlesh Nagarkoti/Shivam Mavi

Sunrisers Hyderabad

Sunrisers Hyderabad perhaps had the quietest auction among all teams, remaining awkwardly silent for extended periods of time even as the other franchises went into bidding wars. The Hyderabad franchise had a lot of bases covered coming into the auction and were seeking middle-order stability and finishing prowess primarily.

With just two overseas slots left, Sunrisers chose to pick up Mitchell Marsh at his base price of Rs 2 crores and added the additional spin-bowling all-round option of Fabien Allen. The West Indian all-rounder was acquired at the base price again, although it came after Sunrisers built middle-order bulk.

By purchasing Indian youngsters Priyam Garg, the under-19 captain for the World Cup next month, and the highly talented Virat Singh, SRH added long-term quality to their batting line-up. Both buys came after short bidding wars that culminated at Rs 1.9 crores each.

The batting, which had prominently struggled last season post the David Warner and Jonny Bairstow stands at the top of the order, was further bolstered by the additions of Bavanaka Sandeep, Abdul Samad and Sanjay Yadav, all acquired at their respective base prices.

Retained squad: Kane Williamson, David Warner, Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Abhishek Sharma, Jonny Bairstow, Wriddhiman Saha, Shreevats Goswami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Shahbaz Nadeem, Billy Stanlake, Basil Thampi, T Natarajan

New additions: Mitchell Marsh (Rs 2 cr), Virat Singh (Rs 1.9 cr), Priyam Garg (Rs 1.9 cr), Bavanaka Sandeep (Rs 20 lakh), Fabian Allen (Rs 50 lakh), Abdul Samad (Rs 20 lakh), Sanjay Yadav (Rs 20 lakh)

Auction Performance – analyzing the new buys

While the notion was always that Sunrisers had a good enough squad, there were seepages in their structure that slowly became obvious as the season wore on last year. The major imbalance in the Sunrisers line-up comes from their four major overseas players - David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Rashid Khan and Kane Williamson - who are virtually unchallenged in their starting line-up.

The over-dependence on the top-order cost Sunrisers last year as the middle-order, where Deepak Hooda and Yusuf Pathan were the finishers, fell apart. To plug this hole, Sunrisers needed solid middle-order batsmen. While Priyam Garg and Virat Singh are good picks, neither are tested at this level.

In Mitchell Marsh, they seek a finisher although a batting strike rate of just below 120 in the format does not ooze much confidence. In Mohammad Nabi, they have a good overseas power-hitter and all-rounder and instead of Marsh, the franchise would have done well to invest more in players like Morgan, David Miller or Shimron Hetmyer to give the current four overseas players a stiff challenge.

Fabien Allen on top of Marsh is another questionable pick, especially with Nabi gracing the bench. A few queries hover around your head as you analyse Sunrisers' squad: Do they have enough firepower should Bairstow or Warner miss a couple of matches owing to injury? With Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Siddharth Kaul and Basil Thampi all proving to be expensive last year, should they have picked up a couple of young domestic pacers too? Have they really found an answer to their middle-order woes?

The number of questions that remain highlight how Sunrisers failed to give their squad fresh paint at the auction despite evident shortcomings. With Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson and Vijay Shankar expected to slot in at 3, 4 and 5, there is a glaring absence of a pure ball-striker in that middle-order.

Williamson could well have sat out a few games if the Hyderabad franchise had added some flair to their middle-order. But with Nabi, Marsh and Allen being the alternative options, there isn't much to gain from sitting the New Zealand skipper out.

Verdict

Sunrisers have overall quality in the side and have a few gun players who can cover up for the loopholes in the team. However, the Hyderabad franchise will feel that they wasted the opportunity to give the squad some real oomph.

A potentially dangerous match-winner in the middle-order and an overseas pacer to tussle it out with Billy Stanlake was what Sunrisers needed from the auction. They failed to find either and focused on acquiring too many batsmen even with the team having just limited spots up for grabs.

Sunrisers can still pack a punch with their starting line-up, but the fear factor finishes with Warner - Bairstow and it is impossible to think that Hyderabad will have a good season if either of the openers falters.

Predicted XI

David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Virat Singh, Vijay Shankar, Abhishek Sharma, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Khaleel Ahmed

 

Updated Date: December 20, 2019 10:31:06 IST

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