Considering the uncertainty surrounding the venues of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019, the primary aim of all the eight franchises at the players' auction was to customise their squads in such a way that it can counter any condition.
Also, due to the 2019 ODI World Cup, the availability of overseas stars was a major concern. Hence, most of the teams needed quality back-up options and that's why the franchises bid aggressively for players who are either unlikely to feature in their national squad at next year's pinnacle event or are available for the entire stretch of IPL 2019. And in the end we must say, all eight think tanks have done a pretty decent job of securing a balanced squad.
We take a look at how two former champions — Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals — went about with their business at the auction table.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Purse: Rs 15.20 crore
Spent: Rs 9.15 crore
Funds remaining: Rs 6.05 crore
Squad strength: 21
Players retained: Dinesh Karthik (C), Robin Uthappa, Chris Lynn, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Shubman Gill, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi, Nitish Rana, Rinku Singh, Kamlesh Nagarkoti
Players purchased: Carlos Brathwaite (Windies all-rounder for INR 5 crore), Lockie Ferguson (New Zealand pacer for INR 1.60 crore), Anrich Nortje (South African pace bowler Rs 20 lakh), Harry Gurney (England fast bowler Rs 75 lakh), Joe Denly (England batsman for Rs 1 crore) Nikhil Naik (Maharashtra wicketkeeper-batsman for Rs 20 lakh), Yarra Prithviraj (Andhra Pradesh pace bowler for Rs 20 lakh), Shrikant Mundhe (Maharashtra all-rounder for Rs 20 lakh).
Sticking to their reputation, KKR once again surprised us with their choice of players in this auction. Having released the likes of Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Tom Curran from earlier, it was predicted that the Kolkata side would invest more on buying overseas fast bowlers.
However, Venky Mysore and their think tank raised quite a few eyebrows when they bid aggressively and ended up paying Rs 5 crore for Winides all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite. It was evident that they were looking for a quality back-up option for injury-prone Andre Russell. Hence, the management went all-out for Brathwaite, who will now return to the Eden Gardens, where he has some happy memories.
— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) December 18, 2018
Perhaps, the price KKR have paid to purchase the Barbados all-rounder is a little bit on the higher side, but Brathwaite certainly seems like a first XI option alongside Russell as he can take the new ball and adds depth to their batting line-up.
To further strengthen their seam attack, KKR picked up New Zealand's Lockie Ferguson, South Africa's Anrich Nortje and English left-armer Harry Gurney. On a fast and bouncy Eden Garden pitch, all of them can be more than handy. Also, hard-hitting top-order batsman Joe Deny has been added to the mix as a back-up for Chris Lynn.
Amongst the domestic players, Maharashtra all-rounder Shrikant Mundhe is a smart buy at Rs 20 lakh. He can bowl medium pace and is a pretty decent batsman down the order. Whereas, his state teammate Nitin Naik will be a back-up wicketkeeper in this unit. Also, Yarra Prithviraj, the 20-year old left-arm seamer from Andhra Pradesh is potentially a good future prospect. Meanwhile, as expected KKR did not fill up their quota of 25 in the auction, but overall they should be quite satisfied with the squad they have picked.
Purse: Rs 20.95 crore
Spent: Rs 13.80 crore
Funds remaining: Rs 7.15 crore
Squad strength: 25
Players retained: Ajinkya Rahane, Krishnappa Gowtham, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Gopal, Aryaman Birla, S. Midhun, Prashant Chopra, Stuart Binny, Rahul Tripathi, Ben Stokes, Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Ish Sodhi, Dhawal Kulkarni, Mahipal Lomror.
Players purchased: Jaydev Unadkat (Saurashtra pacer for INR 8.4 crore), Varun Aaron (Jharkhand pacer for INR 2.4 crore), Oshane Thomas (Winders fast bowler for INR 1.1 crore), Liam Livingstone (England batsman for INR 50 lakh), Ashton Turner (Australian all-rounder for INR 50 lakh), Shashank Singh (Mumbai all-rounder for INR 30 lakh), Shubham Ranjane (Mumbai all-rounder fot INR 20 lakh), Manan Vohra (Punjab batsman for INR 20 lakh), Riyan Parag (Assam leg-spinner for INR 20 lakh).
Well, paying Rs 8.4 crore for Jaydev Unadkat may have fetched Rajasthan some criticism on the social media, but from a strategic point of view, the Royals have been quite street-smart with their picks in the auction. Clearly, pace has been their prime agenda as the Royals got Windies sensation Oshane Thomas and a rejuvenated Varun Aaron alongside Unadkat for a total of Rs 11.9 crore. Remember, they also have the likes of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer in their line-up. So, don't be surprised if the Jaipur track offers some pace and bounce in IPL 2019.
Furthermore, considering the unavailability factor of Steven Smith, Jos Buttler and Stokes during the second half of the competition, their think tank has added Ashton Turner and Liam Livingstone to their squad. The duo has quality, but their lack of IPL experience can become a factor at the business end of the tournament. Here, perhaps they have missed a trick by not going for more reputed names like Brendon McCullum, Yuvraj Singh or even Martin Guptill.
Amongst the Indian domestic talents, Royals, as expected, mostly went for utility all-round options like Mumbai's Shubham Ranjane and Maharashtra's Shubham Ranjan in the auction. Riyan Parag, the leg-break bowler from Assam is a surprise pick, whereas at INR 20 lakh experienced Manan Vohra is a more than a decent choice.
Rajasthan filled their quota of 25 in the auction and they seem to have every based covered. Nevertheless, one must feel that the chances this team making it to the playoffs will heavily depend on its performance in the first half of IPL 2019, when they can play a full-strength squad.