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The IPL 2014 Auction recaps

All the IPL teams for 2014 season have a strong core group and a balanced side which promises a very interesting league for 2014 © PTI
All the IPL teams for 2014 season have a strong core group and a balanced side which promises a very interesting league for 2014 © PTI

The two-day IPL auction has ended amidst a lot of stir and hoopla at Bangalore. Humjee Break-Sheikh takes a recap and discusses the strategies various franchises adopted during the event.

The two-day event finally came to an end at ITC Gardenia. The world got to see more of Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, Gary Kirsten, Stephen Fleming, Tom Moody, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Sanjay Bangar, and Vijay Dahiya along with Nita Ambani, Vijay Mallya, Juhi Chawla, and Preity Zinta than they have probably seen in the past year put together.

Now that the hullabaloo has all come to an end, let us divert our attention to the strategies adopted by the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises during the auction. Some decisions have been excellent, some obvious, while some others baffling; some selections involved reason, while others did not display anything remotely close to that.

Let us go by the teams, then, one by one.


Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)

Cash left: none

Players in squad: 21

Overseas players in squad: seven

Let us try to fathom the strategy RCB underwent. By retaining three explosive batsmen in Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, and Virat Kohli they had already sent out a very strong message to the IPL circuit: they wanted to own a pack of dangerous batsmen who could take the score consistently past the 200-run mark.

They were visibly keen on their goal when they exhausted a substantial part of their budget in going for Yuvraj Singh, spending a jaw-dropping INR 14 crores for the southpaw. This may have seemed outrageous to begin with, given his recent form and omission from ODIs.

It is time, however, that we acknowledge that 50-over cricket and 20-over cricket are two different formats of the sport altogether. Not only are the scoring rates different, the mindsets are different too: batsmen often go in with the knowledge that they will not have any time to settle down, while bowlers know that 4-0-24-0 are excellent bowling figures.

Yuvraj’s (or, for that matter, no one’s) ODI form cannot be an indicator to his T20I form. His last two innings have amounted to a 36-ball 72 against Pakistan at Ahmedabad and a 35-ball 77 not out against Australia at Rajkot; he was named the Man of the match in both.

These matches had, of course, a ten-month gap; that, however, doesn’t take anything away from Yuvraj’s abilities to clear the ground at regular intervals and terrorising any opposition. Think of it this way: what would the bowlers feel like if he walks out to join de Villiers after Kohli and Gayle have departed and RCB is on 160 for two after 14 overs? And even if a third wicket falls, the man to walk in would be Albie Morkel. 230, anyone?

To go with these four they have Parthiv Patel, one of the India’s best batsmen against the short ball — a fact that has been mysteriously overlooked by selectors over a decade now; Vijay Zol, the level-headed Under-19 captain; and a prodigious biffer in Nic Maddinson.

In short, the batting is not only in good hands, it is in extremely muscular hands armed with a Kalashnikov, a sledgehammer, and a battleaxe: okay, maybe two of them, since nobody has more than two hands anyway.

What about the bowling, then? The attack will be spearheaded by the foursome of Ravi Rampaul (their usual strike bowler), Mitchell Starc, Ashoke Dinda, and Varun Aaron; all are different bowlers and can be good in the shorter formats; on the flip side, however, all four are extremely injury-prone, and can break down during the tournament.

What are the alternatives, then? For one crore, Muttiah Muralitharan must have been one of the best bargains of the season, and if Shadab Jakati turns out to be as effective as he used to be for Chennai Super Kings a few seasons back, they may form one of the most potent spin pairs in the middle overs.

Amidst all this, let us not forget Harshal Patel — the man for whom they used their Match to Right card. Retaining Harshal probably makes the RCB strategy more clear. The fact that the extremely gifted Sachin Rana is a part of the squad verifies the point.

One may well see them playing the Big Five at the top of the order, having a blast at the bowling, and rely on the Indian bowlers (throw Yuvraj and Morkel into the mix) with Rampaul leading the attack.

Possible strategy: Get Gayle, Kohli, de Villiers, Morkel, and Yuvraj to go all out with the bat. Make the bowling redundant.

Strength: An explosive top-order next to none.

Weakness: Lack of a quality strike bowler.

Strangest selection: Picking Tanmay Mishra as one of their seven overseas players.

Dark horse: Sachin Rana.


Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)

Cash left: INR one crore

Players in squad: 21

Overseas players in squad: eight

KKR’s strategy has clearly been to go for all-rounders, and they have invested in the likes of Shakib Al-Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschante, and Andre Russell. They have also retained the reliable Jacques Kallis and somewhat strangely, the mercurial Yusuf Pathan, who has not seemed to be as menacing as he used to at one time.

In Morne Morkel, R Vinay Kumar, and the injury-prone Umesh Yadav they have a formidable trio, and it is expected that they will play Sunil Narine whenever possible; with their stars being mostly overseas players, players like Manish Pandey, Piyush Chawla, Robin Uthappa, and Manvinder Bisla will have to play crucial roles.

The fulcrum of the side will definitely be Gautam Gambhir: KKR’s strategy to load their side with all-rounders may not work, since there are not many quality Indian players in the side. Till the last season they had Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Rajat Bhatia — both of them were more than competent all-rounders who could change matches with the bat or the ball.

‘Tendo’ or Shakib may adopt the same roles, but they will consume two of the slots reserved for overseas players. It makes one ponder as to why they kept a crore in their kitty and did not try to retain Shukla or Bhatia (or even use their card for one of them instead of using it for Yusuf).

Given all that, Pat Cummins may not be selected at all, and the same may hold for the explosive Chris Lynn. However, they have young Kuldeep Yadav, a member of that rare breed of cricketers — a Chinaman bowler from India; if his performances in the Asia Cup U19 are anything to go by, KKR may have a prospect on their hands.

Possible strategy: Stuff the side with all-rounders and rely less on specialists.

Strength: All-rounders.

Weakness: Lack of quality Indian players.

Strangest selection: Picking Tanmay Mishra as one of their seven overseas players.

Dark horse: Kuldeep Yadav.


Kings XI Punjab (KXIP)

Cash left: INR 4.1 crores

Players in squad: 23

Overseas players in squad: seven

KXIP had surprised everyone by retaining the relatively unheralded David Miller and Manan Vohra, but right from the moment Zinta and her team arrived at the auction they put the message forward that they have arrived with a purpose. They went in with a plan and executed it to perfection.

Let us look at the squad: they have, in Mitchell Johnson, the most in-form fast bowler of the world; in George Bailey, a level-headed man who can lead the side and score runs at will in the shortest format; in Glenn Maxwell and Thisara Perera, two explosive batsmen and a handy bowlers; in Shaun Marsh, a man who has served them well in the past; and in Miller, a talent they believe in.

However, their real strength lies elsewhere: they have invested in Indians, which a lot of other teams have failed to. Even if we look past Vohra, there is considerable depth in a side that boasts of Murali Kartik, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Rishi Dhawan, Mandeep Singh, Anureet Singh, and Parvinder Awana — inexpensive players with impressive numbers.

Their impressive research was showcased by the selection of Shivam Sharma: yet to play a First-Class, List A, or Twenty20 match, Sharma is a student of Jamia Millia Islamia University. He had scored a 49-ball 72 not out in a league match, followed by 43 not out in the semifinal, and a 32-ball 34 in the final (where Jamia Millia lost to Jain University by two runs). His explosive batting earned him a place in the KXIP squad.

Above all, they had placed faith in two men who have been classified as Test specialists — Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha. Both are quality stroke-players who have been labelled otherwise. They may turn out to be tide-changers as the League would progress. And of course, they have put faith in Virender Sehwag.

Possible strategy: To rely on talent rather than on the big runs. They may be shaped according to the think-tank’s strategy. Only Rajasthan Royals has been known to have adopted something similar before.

Strength: A well-rounded squad relying on experienced and young Indian talent.

Weakness: Lack of a quality strike bowler.

Strangest selection: Spending a fortune on Sehwag.

Dark horse: Shivam Sharma.


Chennai Super Kings (CSK)

Cash left: INR 20 lakhs

Players in squad: 20

Overseas players in squad: eight

CSK have made some very cunning buys during the IPL 2014 auction © IANS
CSK have made some very cunning buys during the IPL 2014 auction © IANS

 

The most consistent side in the history of IPL, CSK had opted to retain MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Dwayne Bravo — which basically amounted to a match-winning captain who could win matches with the bat and keep wickets, three all-rounders, and the arguably most explosive Indian batsman in this format. They already had a nucleus to begin with, and that included four Indians.

They have added Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, and Mithun Manhas to the squad, which means that there will be no lack of firepower. One of the cleverest inclusions must have been Samuel Badree at a throwaway INR 30 lakhs — a selection that proves that they went for numbers more than anything else.

Additionally, they have included Faf du Plessis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mohit Sharma, and the explosive but relatively unknown John Hastings and Matt Henry. To crown everything, they have added a quality Indian all-rounder in Baba Aparajith; additionally, they have Ishwar Pandey, who has excellent records on Indian soil.

Possible strategy: Keep the Big Five along with McCullum and Smith, and possibly Henry or Hastings at the top; with a middle-order full of all-rounders the tail will be small; the bowling attack is also one that will rely more on consistency than aggression; an excellent think-tank consisting of four current international captains.

Strength: An explosive batting-order that bats deep.

Weakness: Lack of a quality fast bowler.

Strangest selection: Ashish Nehra.

Dark horse: Samuel Badree.


Delhi Daredevils (DD)

Cash left: none

Players in squad: 23

Overseas players in squad: seven

After a depressing phase, DD had decided to release all their players and start afresh, and they started by making no compromise in buying off Kevin Pietersen. They have kept faith in the Indian stars of various statures like Mohammed Shami, Murali Vijay, (an overpriced) Dinesh Karthik, Manoj Tiwary, Saurabh Tiwary, Jaidev Unadkat, Kedar Jadhav, Rahul Sharma, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Saurabh Tiwary, Siddharth Kaul, Shahbaz Nadeem, and Mayank Agarwal.

On the other hand, they have invested in the big guns like Ross Taylor, Wayne Parnell, JP Duminy, Nathan Coulter-Nile, and Quinton de Kock — a quartet that will provide them with a lot of options to choose from. However, the biggest bargain had possibly been that of James Neesham at INR one crore. If properly utilised the Kiwi may be a match-winner in the shortest format.

Possible strategy: Build a nucleus around four foreign stars and back them up with seven Indians, including Vijay, Karthik, and Shami.

Strength: Quality overseas players, efficient Indians.

Weakness: Having Karthik and Vijay in the same squad. Nothing significant.

Strangest selection: Karthik for INR 12.5 crores.

Dark horse: James Neesham.


Rajasthan Royals (RR)

Cash left: INR 5.5 crores

Players in squad: 25

Overseas players in squad: eight

Rajasthan Royals will be depending on Shane Watson (right) and Ajinkya Rahane (top left) to score the bulk of th runs this season © IANS and PTI
Rajasthan Royals will be depending on Shane Watson (right) and Ajinkya Rahane (top left) to score the bulk of th runs this season © IANS and PTI

 

RR has stuck to their usual strategy of identifying and acquiring quality yet inexpensive talent at an inexpensive price. They had gone in with the minimum budget, have acquired the largest squad, and have still managed to save the most money. But how good are these inexpensive players?

Their phalanx of all-rounders includes Shane Watson, James Faulkner, Stuart Binny, Kevon Cooper, Steve Smith, Abhishek Nayar, Rajat Bhatia, and Iqbal Abdulla. They have also acquired Rahul Tewatia (“the next Amit Mishra,” as per Dravid and RR CEO Raghu Iyer), who is also a prolific batsman.

They had used their card for Pravin Tambe, who they had picked out of nowhere and groomed; they have acquired an additional spinner in Ankit Sharma, which may provide an indication of their strategy. Brad Hodge, Ajinkya Rahane, Unmukt Chand, Sanju Samson, and Karun Nair will provide solidity to the batting, while they have a spearhead in Tim Southee and a medium-pacer in Dhawal Kulkarni to support the all-rounders and spinners.

As if that was not enough, they have Ben Cutting, Vikramjeet Malik, and Kane Richardson as reserve bowlers and Dishant Yagnik as reserve wicket-keeper. Their only weakness may be the lack of a patriarch to mentor the youngesters — something they had found in Shane Warne and Dravid in the past.

Possible strategy: To load the side with explosive batsmen, all-rounders, and spinners with maybe a dash of Southee thrown in.

Strength: All-rounders and spinners.

Weakness: Lack of a captain.

Strangest selection: Ankush Bains, who does not have a record to write home about.

Dark horse: Rahul Tewatia.


Mumbai Indians (MI)

Cash left: INR five lakhs

Players in squad: 21

Overseas players in squad: eight

With newcomers, Corey Anderson (second from right) and Michael Hussey (third from right) coming in, Mumbai Indians will be hoping to defend the title this season © IANS and Getty Images
With newcomers, Corey Anderson (second from right) and Michael Hussey (third from right) coming in, Mumbai Indians will be hoping to defend the title this season © IANS and Getty Images

 

Exactly why Mumbai let Mitchell Johnson go remains a mystery. They had used their card on Pragyan Ojha instead. Nevertheless, they have invested in Michael Hussey and Corey Anderson, which probably made up for their apparent lapse. The Big Five — Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga, Ambati Rayudu, and Kieron Pollard — are as strong a quintet as can be, and they have done brilliantly to unearth an outstanding talent in Krishmar Santokie.

The rest is dependent mostly on Indian youngsters: Zaheer Khan is clearly past his prime, but in Jalaj Saxena, Aditya Tare, Jasprit Bumrah, Shreyas Gopal, and Chidhambaram Gautam they have some talented youngsters. It is up to the Big Five, Hussey, and Ojha to guide the team, with Josh Hazlewood, Marchant de Lange, and Ben Dunk playing the occasional match.

Possible strategy: Play the Big Seven in as many matches as possible and keep faith in the youngsters.

Strength: A blend of youth and experience.

Weakness: Not a very good reserve bench.

Strangest selection: Letting go of Mitchell Johnson.

Dark horse: Krishmar Santokie.


Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH)

Cash left: INR one crore

Players in squad: 24

Overseas players in squad: seven

 

SRH had retained Dale Steyn and Shikhar Dhawan, and have been careful with the other selections. They have built up a seam attack consisting of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Darren Sammy, Ishant Sharma, Jason Holder, Irfan Pathan, Moises Henriques, Ashish Reddy, Prasanth Parameswaran, and a raw talent in Chama Milind, which means that they are more prepared than most teams if the tournament is held in South Africa.

Opening batting with Dhawan will be David Warner, and with Brendon Taylor, Naman Ojha, Venugopal Rao, and Manpreet Juneja to follow, and with two top-notch spin-bowling all-rounders in Parvez Rasool and Karn Sharma, SRH is ready to take on the others.

Possible strategy: With all set for the IPL to shift to South Africa, pick the correct seamers to assist Steyn.

Strength: Explosive batsmen, swing bowlers, spin-bowling all-rounders, Steyn.

Weakness: None.

Strangest selection: Srikkanth Anirudha, clearly not in the best of forms.

Dark horse: Karn Sharma.

(Humjee Break-Sheikh eats, drinks, breathes and lives cricket. Unfortunately, he does not believe in social media.)

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