It’s that time of the year again when players turn into products and a hotel conference hall turns into a frenetic marketplace. Well, almost.
The player auctions ahead of IPL 2020 will be held in Kolkata on 19 December, but before the eight IPL franchises engage in price wars, they first need to decide which of their cards they’re going to continue holding on to — and, perhaps more vitally, who among their pack they need to let go of.
With the deadline to submit the final list of retained and released players fast approaching, here’s a look at some players who might be nearing the end of their stints with their present employees – be it for purposes of fat-trimming, purse-swelling, or plain-and-simple ‘it’s not working’.
Chennai Super Kings
The team whose identity is built around sticking the course with its chosen ones; the Super Kings made only two changes from their 2018 title-winning squad before entering the 2019 edition. While their trends from the 12 years of the IPL suggest they’re unlikely to make wholesale changes, if any at all, the legs on the ‘Dad’s Army’ are only getting heavier. The prudent choice, as much as CSK fans may not like it, would be to shed some weight – in terms of age, and/or money.
Mohit Sharma (INR 5 crore)
Arguably the most obvious release. Even when the then-champions brought a former star back to their stables at last year’s auction, it appeared an expense of luxury and not at all one of necessity. Yes, CSK are all about the ‘loyalty’, but Mohit Sharma presents no case for himself at the moment.
He played one game all season in 2019, returning 1/27 from three overs in a defeat to Mumbai Indians. That game, played on 3 April, was Sharma’s last professional game of any kind. He’s 31. He’s got to be surplus to requirements, surely?
David Willey (INR 2 crore)
While David Willey had appeared to be a smart buy two years back, he’s yielded no dividends for the team. The English left-arm seamer, known for his variations as well as his slogging ability, managed all of two wickets from three outings in 2018, before being unavailable for the 2019 campaign.
He’s since been snubbed by England, and by letting go, Chennai would free up not just a sizeable INR 2 crore, but also an overseas slot. Remember, Lungi Ngidi will be back too, having missed out last time around due to injury.
Scott Kuggeleijn (INR 50 lakh)
Ngidi’s replacement at IPL 2019, Kuggeleijn did little of note for CSK – and has continued quite in the same vein ever since. The Kiwi quick conceded 8.87 per over in his two IPL appearances and has gone at 9.35 per over in five T20Is for New Zealand after his stint in India.
Releasing Kuggeleijn will also go a small way in correcting CSK’s social gaffe when it came to signing on the controversial pacer in the first place.
Kedar Jadhav (INR 7.8 crore)
A release that will require a deviation from the ‘loyalty first’ strategy, but let’s break it down.
Jadhav turned out only once – albeit heroically – during the title-winning campaign 18 months ago. This season, he was persisted with all along. The returns? 158 runs from 14 games, just one score above 30, and a strike rate of 95.85 – criminal numbers for any T20 bat, let alone someone occupying a middle-order slot.
The bowling argument – of which Jadhav has been a beneficiary as far as his India career is concerned – also doesn’t apply: in his time with CSK, he is yet to have delivered a single ball.
Add to that the fact that he turns 35 before IPL 2020 comes along, and his lengthy battle with fitness. A price tag of INR 7.8 crore might be a tad too much, don’t you think?
What a difference a year can make, eh? Delhi – they who would usually be turning their entire roster on its head at this time of the year – actually find themselves in a place where they only need fine-tuning, and not wholesale recalibration. They’ve already made what could well be, arguably, their most telling move by drafting R Ashwin in from Kings XI Punjab, while also balancing that trade to some extent with the sale of Trent Boult (and Sherfane Rutherford earlier) to Mumbai Indians.
The Capitals anyway had the most voluminous remaining purse to enter the IPL 2020 auctions, but they could be in a position to double their advantage with a few shrewd farewells.
Amit Mishra (INR 4 crore)
Yes, he is the most successful Indian bowler in the history of the IPL (and the second-most successful overall, behind Lasith Malinga). Yes, he’s been excellent for the Delhi franchise over multiple stints, with a fine display last season too. But is he going to play over Ashwin? Is he a better fit than the prodigious Sandeep Lamichhane? Is he of greater value than Axar Patel (who, lest you forget, the Capitals paid INR 5 crore to acquire)?
Even if for the sake of additional spin reserves for the always unpredictable Ferozeshah Kotla track, Delhi have Rahul Tewatia and Jalaj Saxena to call upon – both all-rounders, the latter of whom has set the domestic scene on fire in recent months.
Harsh as it may seem from the outside, Mishra turns 37 this month, and in this case, the Capitals may be best served listening to their heads and not their hearts.
Colin Ingram (INR 6.4 crore)
Probably the first item on a speculative Delhi offloading list, despite his wealth of experience as a T20 traveller.
Delhi’s decision to shell out a massive INR 6.4-crore figure on the South African wasn’t entirely misplaced – he had been one of the best batsmen in the 2018 English T20 Blast, while also making a mark in the PSL the same year – but Ingram failed to repay the faith, and the moolah, invested in him by the Capitals, with only two scores above 25 and a strike rate under 120.
Ingram will be touching 35 by the time IPL 2020 rolls along; the money freed up by his release could be well-utilised in bringing in a more explosive finisher – a role Delhi couldn’t quite fill despite their run to the playoffs in 2019.
Kings XI Punjab
For the second straight IPL season, Kings XI Punjab squandered an uplifting first half of the campaign with an abysmal second half to eventually finish sixth. Their hopes of correcting their fortunes will now rely on a new tactical ground, with captain R Ashwin traded to Delhi Capitals.
The good news for Punjab is that they have immense scope for a big wallet at the next auction — as long as they’re willing to reduce their losses.
Varun Chakravarthy (INR 8.4 crore)
So much was expected from the TNPL starlet after he fetched the joint-highest bid at last December’s auction – and so rarely has an investment returned such little.
The million-dollar-man saw his first over smoked for 25 runs in a blaze of Sunil Narine’s bat. Two overs later, he picked up a shoulder injury that ended his maiden IPL season. Those three overs in the opening week of IPL 2019 were the last bit of action Varun has been involved in on a cricket field.
Don’t expect Kings XI to wait to find out where their mystery acquisition is headed.
Overseas Fast Bowlers (INR 15.9 crore)
This is no stereotyping/demographical profiling: Punjab’s pace-bowling imports have been, well, a sorry story.
Sam Curran was bought for INR 7.2 crore, and while he had one blaze of glory apiece with bat and ball, you don’t shell a million dollars on someone to have them giving 9.78 runs an over. The 21-year-old, while having made his inroads in Test cricket, is yet to light up the T20 stage.
A year earlier, Andrew Tye had fetched the same amount – and boy did he look the part as he ran home with the Purple Cap for IPL 2018. 2019? Three wickets in six games, an economy rate above 10, a wicket only once in 44 balls. Tye corrected those figures a little in the English T20 Blast, but he continues to find himself out of favour with the Australian selectors.
Fellow Aussie Moises Henriques (picked more as an all-rounder than a pacer) has played neither an IPL, nor an international game since 2017 – making his fee of INR 75 lakh easily dispensable too.
Another INR 75 lakh buy from last season, South Africa’s Hardus Viljoen, failed to make much of an impression, leaking 9.65 runs per over.
Kolkata Knight Riders
In 2019, the Knight Riders – a benchmark of sorts in team balance and composition for most of this decade – found themselves drawing blanks for the first time since the dark days of 2009 – despite holding within their ranks the most sensational individual campaign of recent times by way of Andre Russell.
As the gulf between Russell and the vast majority of his teammates grew larger, it became clearer that KKR will perhaps need to take a tough call or five if they want normal service to return come 2020.
Carlos Brathwaite (INR 5 crore)
The 2016 World T20 final star’s reunion with the ground where he ensured the world would ‘remember the name’ didn’t prove to be half as romantic as the headlines suggested. The presence of his more ‘senior’ Windies all-rounders in Russell and Sunil Narine allowed Brathwaite only two appearances, which offered little to remember – 11 runs and three wicketless overs.
Having endured a difficult CPL thereafter, Brathwaite now even finds himself sidelined from the West Indian setup. His only ray of hope, potentially, is Russell’s longstanding tussle with injuries.
Joe Denly (INR 1 crore)
Another overseas all-rounder who KKR could comfortably do without. It’s not like they did much with him anyway – a first-ball duck, seeing his stumps castled by the first delivery he ever faced in the IPL, was all that Denly’s season comprised of. With his focus seemingly shifted towards earning a regular spot in the English Test side, that could well be Denly’s only IPL action.
Kamlesh Nagarkoti (INR 3.2 crore)
Nagarkoti shot into prominence as part of the India U-19 class of 2018 – catching the eye, and gripping the mind, with his serious, searing pace through the title-winning run of the Indian colts in New Zealand. That fetched a bumper pay-day of INR 3.2 crore from the two-time IPL champions.
Sadly though, for all parties – Nagarkoti, KKR and Indian cricket – Nagarkoti hasn’t made it to the cricket field since February 2018, having been consumed by ankle, heel and lower-back injuries. The Knight Riders were patient enough to keep him within their ranks despite a no-show the first time around. Will they still be as patient?
Robin Uthappa (INR 6.4 crore)
A decision that will require some steel, but one that finds itself grounded in the same thought-process as the call for Delhi to bid adieu to Amit Mishra.
The days of Uthappa’s domination – remember that 660-run season in 2014? – are a thing of the past, as evidenced by the steep fall in his strike rate: from 165 in IPL 2017 to 115 this year. Consistency, too, has deserted the 2007 World T20 winner, as he’s managed just two half-centuries in the last two seasons. Having recently turned 34, Uthappa is also enduring a horrid domestic campaign, with 140 runs in 10 limited-overs games for Karnataka.
It might be the right time to exit the Robbie market, KKR.
If you thought being champions afforded Mumbai the luxury of not needing too many tweaks, sample this from the final day of internal trading: with a couple of additions, MI’s already potent pace attack now reads Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga, Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan, Alzarri Joseph, Jason Behrendorff, Adam Milne, Dhawal Kulkarni, Barinder Sran, Beuran Hendricks.
If anything, that’s a few too many options for just one broad category – and that’s precisely where the four-time IPL winners should look to do their chopping and changing.
Jason Behrendorff (INR 1.5 crore)
Even if it weren’t for the pace-bowling surplus, Mumbai would do well to save the INR 1.5 crore they dished out for the Australian left-armer: a lower-back injury has kept Behrendorff away from the game for over six months, and he’s unlikely to be fit in time for the IPL.
Barinder Sran (INR 3.4 crore)
The 3.4-crore figure did appear at least a few crores too many even when MI were shipping it at the auction in December 2018, but you perhaps saw why Mumbai were fretting – they had no Indian fast bowler in their ranks outside of Bumrah.
Now that they do have local lad Dhawal Kulkarni to fall back on, Mumbai will do well to note that Sran’s two matches in IPL 2019 returned zero wickets and an economy rate of 12.75. That, probably, will mean curtains to Sran’s time in Mumbai.
Beuran Hendricks (INR 50 lakh)
The South African limited-overs specialist was rushed into the Mumbai setup when Alzarri Joseph’s season was ended by injury; Joseph’s IPL-record 6/12 means MI will be right in bringing him back, and that will automatically mean the end of Hendricks’ zero-match stint with the champions.
Ben Cutting (INR 2.2 crore)
Another department where MI seem a little excessively-stocked, especially with Sherfane Rutherford also coming in through another trade with Delhi, is in the area of medium-pace all-rounders. Mumbai’s affinity towards Kieron Pollard means he will always stay high up in the pecking order, and they’re only ever going to field one such player anyway (barring emergencies, and given the makeup of their overseas options).
Cutting was only called upon thrice during IPL 2019; he might not be summoned at all next season.
The Royals had among the best starting overseas quartets in Jos Buttler, Steven Smith, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. That they still finished level on points with bottom-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore suggests they could well do with stronger domestic imports at the coming auction.
To be in a position to do so, they need to shed some serious excess baggage.
Jaydev Unadkat (INR 8.4 crore)
Excess baggage, did we say?
In 2018, the Royals paid INR 11.5 crore for Unadkat and didn’t even get a wicket for every crore they shelled out. In 2019, they course-corrected, releasing the left-armer before buying him for a slashed price of INR 8.4 crore – this time, Unadkat bagged slightly more than a wicket for every crore but leaked 10.67 an over.
He ought to be in for a more pronounced price-cut, one would reckon – although the decision to trade Dhawal Kulkarni to Mumbai Indians could well bail Unadkat out of trouble.
Oshane Thomas (INR 1.1 crore)
While the Royals don’t have someone to back Archer up in the overseas fast bowler department, the evidence from the early stages of Thomas’ career doesn’t present a compelling case for the West Indian quick. Four IPL games in 2019 may have brought with them five wickets, but the tall 22-year-old goes at above nine per over in all T20s – and Rajasthan have enough leaky pacers in their ranks already.
Rahul Tripathi (INR 3.4 crore)
Less than three years after a bright initiation to IPL cricket with Rising Pune Supergiant, Tripathi finds himself at crossroads. The last two seasons have been underwhelming: an average below 25, a strike rate below 130.
Tripathi’s case hasn’t been helped by the fact that he’s been shunted down the order. But in a team sheet that reads Rahane, Buttler, Samson, Smith (and Stokes), how does he ever get to the top of the pack? The honest answer is that he doesn’t. And the Royals can do better than to be spending three-and-a-half crore rupees on essentially an under-utilised resource.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Another IPL player release day comes along with RCB in line to potentially release half their roster; the script is getting all-too-predictable, and all-too-depressing, for the Bangalore faithful. But their IPL fortunes are unlikely to change without yet another makeover. The good news, as with Punjab, is that there is immense manoeuvrability.
Shimron Hetmyer (INR 4.2 crore)
While it may be a tad bit harsh to outcast a budding prospect on the basis of just five games, it isn’t just Hetmyer’s ordinary IPL returns but his overall dip in form that could hurt his retention chances. The West Indian averages a meagre 26.71 from 32 international innings in 2019, and also returned single-digit scores in eight out of 12 innings in the recent season of the CPL.
RCB could consider selling him and buying him back at a better price, if they do wish to stick to their guns.
Akshdeep Nath (INR 3.6 crore)
Another overpriced young batting prospect the Royal Challengers should offload.
Nath did his chances no good with a humbling IPL 2019: 61 runs from five innings, strike rate 107. And now, he knows there’s a clear-cut frontrunner for the Indian domestic batting pick in Devdutt Padikkal, the top run-getter in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as well as the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Mohammad Siraj (INR 2.2 crore)
A second seemingly overpriced domestic pick for RCB to consider doing away with. A couple of years back, when Siraj was bursting into the Indian T20I side on the back of a strong IPL debut season, his 2.2-crore price tag might have seemed worth the while – but the 25-year-old followed an erratic 2018 with an insipid 2019, while also proving to be a major liability in the field.
Siraj is likely to find suitors if he is released by RCB, but don’t expect anything close to the same price tag.
Colin de Grandhomme (INR 2.2 crore)
One of the few areas where Virat Kohli finds his squad well-stocked is the all-rounders' department: Moeen Ali walks into the side when available (which he is for most of the 2020 campaign), Washington Sundar is among the most impressive Indians in the ranks and Marcus Stoinis was acquired for INR 6.2 crore.
Which makes de Grandhomme’s role in the side redundant – all the more so given an IPL career average of 18.93 and 53.16 with bat and ball, respectively.
Prayas Ray Barman (INR 1.5 crore)
Did RCB take a hunch too seriously with the then-16-year-old leggie in shelling a crore-and-a-half rupees for him? You’ve got to think so: Barman’s sole outing saw him tonked for 56 in four overs, and he hasn’t played a professional game ever since.
They may have underperformed by their consistently high standards in finishing fourth last season, but the Sunrisers arrived into IPL 2019 with arguably the best-balanced squad – and the same can be said of them now as well, especially considering they will have David Warner and Jonny Bairstow with them for most of IPL 2020, unlike this year.
With over 5 crores already at their disposal, SRH are the side in the least need for recalibration going into the next auction.
Shakib al Hasan (INR 2 crore)
If you’re the kind to look at a glass as half-full, you could say Shakib’s silly act might be a bit of a blessing for the Sunrisers – they only called upon the services of the Bangladesh star thrice through IPL 2019, and now get to add his cost price of INR 2 crore back in their purses going into the final season before a ‘full’ auction.
Yusuf Pathan (INR 1.5 crore)
A far cry from his lofty days of RR and KKR past, Yusuf did little to credit himself last season: 40 runs from eight innings at a strike rate of 88.88. He’ll be 37 in a couple of days, and it’s probably time for the Sunrisers to call time.
Deepak Hooda (INR 3.6 crore)
Hooda didn’t do a whole lot more than his senior alternative Yusuf – 64 runs from seven innings at a strike rate of 101.58, highlighting Sunrisers’ finishing troubles with the bat. But since he has age – and fitness – on his side, Sunrisers could look at Hooda as a possible cost-cutting option: his recent form doesn’t suggest he’d have too many buyers, which offers Hyderabad a chance to save some money.
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