Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) are making a comeback to the Indian Premier League (IPL) after two years. There was particular interest in how these two teams go about their retentions, Right to Match (RTM) cards and selections in the bidding process. Chennai Super Kings had used all three retentions to hold back MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja in their squad while Rajasthan Royals were interested in holding back just one player, Steve Smith. During the actual bidding process too, the approach of the two teams was entirely different from one another. Let's look at how the two fared.
Chennai Super Kings:
The secret to CSK's success throughout their eight seasons in IPL was the presence of a strong Indian contingent, and they have gone back to trusting the same formula for their comeback. In addition, they have also tried to retain as many players from the old CSK fold as possible in an attempt to recreate the familiar old team environment. The feeling of familiarity also comes from the inclusion of old head coach Stephen Fleming as well, who was seen running the show during the auction process.
After having used all three possible retentions, the CSK team came into the auction with a slightly lighter purse than few of the other teams, and it showed when they bid lightly in the early stages of the bidding process when some of the big names were being drawn out.
Their most expensive buy during the auction was Kedar Jadhav for Rs 7.8 crore. Jadhav is one of India's best finishers and a handy part-time off-spinner. It can even be argued that making Jadhav bowl in international cricket was Dhoni's idea. Jadhav wasn't much of a bowler in domestic cricket, but Dhoni saw a unique action and a smart cricketing brain in him and made good use of his bowling ability, much the same way he has managed to use Suresh Raina's limited bowling abilities to the fullest at CSK.
CSK spent lightly on overseas players. Dwayne Bravo and Shane Watson are two excellent inclusions for the price they were bought at. The ageing all-rounders still have a lot to offer in this format and will lend a lot of balance to the squad. Imran Tahir and Sam Billings were also bought for a bargain price of Rs 1 crore each. Lungi Ngidi, star of the recently-concluded Test series between India and South Africa, was also a steal for Rs 50 lakh.
Seen as one of the most promising young spinners in the world, Mitchell Santner is another great buy at Rs 50 lakh. Another member of the core CSK team from two years ago, Faf du Plessis can open the batting for the side and with his captaincy experience, be a useful sounding board for Dhoni.
Murali Vijay, Harbhajan Singh, Ambati Rayudu are the other experienced, albeit ageing according to some, campaigners in the squad. Overall, CSK has shown faith in experienced Indian players who may not be regular in the current team but still bring a lot to the table.
Chennai bought a lot of uncapped Indian players towards the end of the auction. We may not see most of them in action during games this year, but some of the selections may pay dividends in the future.
At first look, the squad looks like a reincarnation of the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant. Perhaps some of the selections were influenced by Steve Smith's experiences from last year. The team has spent heavily on international superstars and barring a few names, spent lightly on Indian players, a strategy that worked for the Pune team in the last edition of the league.
Rajasthan entered the auction with a bang, picking up last year's most expensive player Ben Stokes at a whopping Rs 12.5 crore. As it turned out Stokes is the most expensive buy of this season too. Rajasthan also paid a fat sum to Jaydev Unadkat, who was, to everyone's surprise, the most expensive Indian player to be sold at the auction at Rs 11.5 crore.
Jofra Archer was a widely discussed name before the auctions started for his ability to bowl with express pace. A star of this year's Big Bash League, the uncapped England all-rounder is also a nimble fielder (check out the run out he effected with a direct hit from the boundary on YouTube) and a big hitter. He adds to the list of blockbuster names in the team.
Hobart Hurricanes' D'Arcy Short was a smart buy at Rs 4 crore. He is another all-rounder who scored heavily in Big Bash and bowled some useful overs with his left arm spin. The addition of Jos Buttler will mean the Royals will never be short of big-hitting overseas players to choose from, although it may be a headache for the team in deciding the four players overseas players in the squad. It's possible that at some stage in the tournament, Smith may sit out just to lend more balance to the team.
Uncapped Rahul Tripathi was rewarded for his consistent run of scores with the bat for Pune last year and fetched a price of Rs 3.4 crore this season. The off-spin-bowling all-rounder from Karnataka was one of those surprise packages at the auction. He was sold to the Rajasthan Royals team for Rs 6.2 crore, 31 times more than his base price of Rs 20 lakh. While it's heartening to see young Indian players fetching huge prices, these picks have a habit of flopping under the pressure of expectations at the IPL. Rajasthan will be hoping K Gowtham can buck the trend.
Ajinkya Rahane was retained with a right to match card at Rs 4 crore, a reasonable price for an top Indian player who can also be relied upon to captain the team in Smith's absence. The other capped Indian players in the squad are Sanju Samson, Dhawal Kulkarni and Stuart Binny, all useful players capable of contributing to the team's cause, although they all have been guilty of being inconsistent in the past.
The lack of good Indian players may turn out to be a handicap for the Rajasthan team but they will be hoping to prove that a 20-over contest can be won on the back of three or four key performers that they have in the form of their overseas players.