Back-up allrounders still get big money…
It's doubtful whether Tom Curran, Dan Christian or Moises Henriques will end up as first-choice players for their franchises if everyone is fit. Yet each bagged more than INR 4 crore (USD 550,000 approx.). Curran played 10 games for Rajasthan Royals last season, but Christian last played an IPL game in 2018, and Henriques in 2017. So why so much love for these allrounders with middling IPL records?
Teams are always keen on allrounders, even if they are second-choice players who can come in when there is an injury or if the teams need a different balance. There were not a lot in this auction, and by the time these three names came up, there were five teams who had money to spend and wanted an overseas allrounder. The Delhi Capitals snapped up Curran, the Punjab Kings beat Royal Challengers Bangalore to Henriques and RCB then got Christian instead. The Kolkata Knight Riders lost out in that race and got Ben Cutting for INR 75 lakh (USD 100,000 approx.), while Jimmy Neesham went to the Mumbai Indians for INR 50 lakh (USD 69,000 approx.) and Fabian Allen to the Kings for INR 75 lakh.
What happened to all the overseas top-order batsmen?
Jason Roy, World Cup star, Alex Hales, second-highest T20 run-scorer since 2019, Aaron Finch, Australia's white-ball captain, Evin Lewis, a former INR 3.8-crore player; none of them got a single bid at the auction. Dawid Malan, the No.1-ranked T20I batsman, went for just his base price of INR 1.5 crore (USD 206,000 approx.), and Steven Smith, previously on an INR 12.5 crore (USD 1.3 million approx.) contract, went for INR 2.2 crore (USD 300,000 approx.) this time.
The reason was quite simply that demand for overseas top-order players was low, since the teams that had big budgets had settled opening pairs and wanted to save overseas slots for other roles. The Punjab Kings, who had the biggest remaining purse, have a strong top order, as do the Rajasthan Royals. RCB did put in a bid for Smith, but they have already expressed their faith in Josh Philippe. Also, since the batsmen's names were read first, teams were conservative as they knew they'd need big money for allrounders and fast bowlers. By the time they came back around, a lot of teams had exhausted their purses.
RCB break the bank on three players
RCB had INR 35.9 crore (USD 4.9 million approx.) to spend in this auction and splashed INR 34.05 crore (USD 4.68 million approx.) on three players: Glenn Maxwell, Kyle Jamieson, and Christian. It's an interesting strategy from RCB - they end up with the smallest squad, of 22 players, but they do seem to have most bases covered. RCB had done some important business before the auction, trading in both Harshal Patel and Daniel Sams from Delhi, so they probably felt they needed just one more top-quality pacer - with Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj already in the squad. Hence, the splurge on Jamieson. In terms of batting, they have hinted they will use Philippe this season and already have Devdutt Padikkal, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Adding Maxwell gives them a strong top five, so they might not have felt the need to have a larger squad with more options.
An Afghan spin trio at Sunrisers Hyderabad
After adding Mujeeb-ur-Rahman to their squad, the Sunrisers now have him, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi forming a trio that has been successful playing together for Afghanistan. It's unlikely Sunrisers can fit them all in the same XI, since they need overseas slots for the likes of David Warner, Kane Williamson and Jason Holder, but playing Rashid and Mujeeb together would give them an attacking spin option, particularly if the IPL is held in India, where fingerspinners such as Mujeeb have been successful.
Why did CSK bid for Cheteshwar Pujara?
Pujara had not got an IPL contract since 2014, but this time around the Chennai Super Kings signed him for his base price of INR 50 lakh (USD 69,000 approx.). CSK had released M Vijay, so Pujara adds some Indian batting depth. While his T20 strike-rate of 109.35 is not appealing, given how poorly CSK's batsmen fared last season, he may be someone who can come in as an accumulator if they decide to pack the side with their best bowlers for low-scoring pitches.
West Indies and Sri Lanka struggle for representation
West Indian players have historically played big roles at IPL franchises, and most auctions tend to feature their talents. This time around, however, just one West Indian was signed at the auction - Allen. Some of the recent buys from the Caribbean have not worked out - Sheldon Cottrell had a poor end to his 2020 season, Oshane Thomas and Lewis both lost their places at their franchises after the 2019 season, and Rovman Powell never played a game after getting picked up by KKR in 2017. None of them got bids this time.
No Sri Lanka players were signed this year and there have been very few signed in recent auctions too. Speaking on the subject, the Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene explained that most of the overseas shopping at this auction was reserved for allrounders and quicks, and Sri Lanka don't produce enough of those.
"I'm sure the younger generation will come through and till then, it is disheartening but that is what it is," he said. "IPL is a place where you try and get the best players in world cricket to come and play. And it's a good message for the Sri Lankan players to lift their game up, get competitive, so they could be part of the IPL on their merit."