The longest and most tedious affair of the IPL calendar got concluded last night. The IPL auction is a game where eight teams play together and compete not with bats and balls but with coaches, accountants, owners and paycheques.
Despite not having too many big ticket names in this year’s IPL auction list, the event lived up to its reputation of throwing surprises with heated bidding over lesser-known players, and no bidding over some big names.
As it turns out, most teams got what they may have planned for in the lead up to the auction. Let's look at how Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Mumbai Indians (MI) fared in their shopping spree.
Chennai Super Kings
As expected, CSK had very little to do in the auction. They just had slots for two players, and they had specific names they wanted to go after to fill these slots.
They contested for names like Varun Chakravarthy, a Tamil Nadu lad, who ended up being the star of the auction night, but they had to stop when they ran out of money in their allotted purse.
Getting a fast bowler who can bowl at the death was mandatory for CSK. They went after Mohammed Shami and Barinder Sran, but when the bids started going too high, they were pragmatic enough to give way.
CSK were expected to go after Mohit Sharma given their penchant to reclaim players from their original fold. Mohit had bowled a brilliant last over to restrict a rampaging MS Dhoni last year against Kings XI Punjab where he nailed some perfect wide yorkers.
Mohit has played under Dhoni quite a bit over the years. He was an integral part of Dhoni's pace attack in the 2015 World Cup. Apart from his variations and skills with the ball in hand, Mohit is also an excellent fielder in the outfield. Nothing pleases Dhoni more than a disciplined bowler who can carry his weight in the team like Mohit did when he dismissed AB de Villiers with a rocket throw in the 2015 World Cup.
Mohit Sharma's comments after getting picked up by CSK where he expressed his delight over playing for the Chennai team and eagerness to deliver for Dhoni, whom he considers a mentor, signify why Mohit was lapped up by the team at a price that may seem slightly on the higher side.
CSK thrives on creating a team environment with players who have a feeling of genuine gratitude in representing the team and are willing to punch above their weight for that yellow jersey and what it represents. They will start another season of IPL in 2019 as strong title contenders.
The young Maharashtra lad, Ruturaj Gaikwad was CSK's only other pick for the night at a base price of Rs 20 lakh.
Mumbai Indians had seven empty slots at the auction, but with only 11 crore remaining in the purse. It was clear that they could not go after the hot buys of the evening. They bid eagerly for many players, but their budget made them relent when the price went too high. They eventually had to settle with a couple of ageing stars who can be game changers and a few promising youngsters.
Lasith Malinga is MI's Mr Dependable. He is one of the main reasons for the team's success, not just as a lethal fast bowling weapon, but also as a wise mentor and guru to youngsters like Jasprit Bumrah who prospered under his wings. Picked at his base price of Rs 2 crore, Malinga will play the dual role of player and mentor this season. Malinga has struggled a bit with injuries and has lost a bit of pace in past few years, but as he has shown for Sri Lanka recently, he more than makes up for the lack of speed with his unmatched skills and accuracy, and can still win games on his own. He will slot in for Mustafizur Rahman who was released from the side and provide some much-needed support for Bumrah in death overs.
Another veteran who was picked uncontested at his base price this year is Yuvraj Singh. The name still carries enormous weight in T20 cricket even though Yuvraj's returns are diminishing as he nears the dusk of his career. MI's biggest struggle last year was a misfiring middle order that regularly squandered good starts for the team. Yuvraj Singh can provide some stability to the middle order, and on his day, he still possesses the ability to damage a few bowling figures.
MI's has been brilliant over the years in blending youth with experience. They have added players to both ends of this experience spectrum once again this year. Punjab's Anmolpreet Singh is one of India's premiere young batsmen who joins the MI fold. Known more for his exploits in Tests and ODIs as a steady batsman, MI will expect him to grow into a better T20 cricketer and lend some stability to their hit and miss middle order.
Barinder Sran is the third player from Punjab to join MI this year. Once compared with Zaheer Khan by his Punjab teammate Yuvraj Singh, the left arm fast bowler will now have the opportunity to learn from the man himself as Zaheer is now a part of MI's Director of Cricket Operations. The presence of Sran will allow MI to play an extra overseas batsman, who most likely could be Quinton de Kock.
Rasikh Salam Dar, the promising seamer from Jammu and Kashmir and Pankaj Jaiswal, the medium pacer from Himachal Pradesh completed MI's pick for the season. While not much is known about these two youngsters, you can trust MI's scouting staff for understanding what exactly they are getting for the bargain.
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Srikkanth was referring to Dhoni's remark that the youngsters in the Chennai Super Kings squad did not show the spark needed to challenge the seniors and break into the playing XI.
The CSK head coach said Shikhar Dhawan played well but rued the dropped catches as the experienced left-handed opener guided DC home with his first IPL hundred.
Earlier this month, CSK skipper MS Dhoni overtook Suresh Raina (194 games) to become the player with most appearances.