Last weekend’s IPL 2022 auction in Bengaluru was the third mega auction Anil Kumble was involved in. In 2011, he was the chief mentor of Royal Challengers Bangalore, a role he reprised with Mumbai Indians three years later. The former India captain is now the head coach of Punjab Kings.
Well versed with auction dynamics and no stranger to the vicissitudes of bidding, the leg-spinning giant admitted to sensing a different, aggressive approach from franchises. “You had to be even more nimble during this auction,” Kumble remarked, echoing a sentiment shared across the board.
This latest mega auction is likely to be the last big bash for a while, what with franchises wary of the prospect of restructuring and rebuilding teams every three years after having invested so much money, energy, time and resources in their personnel.
The addition of two new franchises, Lucknow Super Giants and Gujarat Titans, meant a mega auction was inevitable. But with the Indian Premier League (IPL) unlikely to expand beyond 10 teams for the foreseeable future, the adrenaline rush of bidding wars and furious raising of paddles will probably be put in cold storage for the next few years.
Homegrown pace bowling talent
The most obvious gleaning from this auction was the immense faith shown by the franchises in homegrown pace bowling talent. The mega bucks once reserved almost exclusively for overseas pacemen have stayed home this time round.
Of the 11 who attracted successful bids of ₹10 crore and above, five were Indian quicks – Deepak Chahar at ₹14 crore was the second most expensive buy of all players, behind only Ishan Kishan (₹15.25 crore), heading a list bolstered by Shardul Thakur and Harshal Patel (₹10.75 crore each), and rounded off by Prasidh Krishna and the uncapped Avesh Khan (₹10 crore each). For good measure, Khan became the most expensive uncapped player ever in IPL history.
This investment in Indian pace should come as no surprise, given how high the stocks of Indian fast bowling have climbed in the period between the last big auction and now. India possesses among the most feared and versatile pace attacks in the modern era, spearheaded by Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami and fortified by the presence of Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav, among others. The vote of confidence in the next lot is in keeping with India’s transformation from the home of spin to a land where pace riches are vibrant, abundant and enviable.
Chahar vs Patel
Chahar and Patel’s stories provide a fascinating mix of similarities and contrasts. Both were retained by the previous franchise for whom they performed a stellar job in the last couple of years. Chennai Super Kings went the whole hog once their pre-auction strategy had dictated that they must acquire the services of Chahar, the Rajasthan all-rounder in the making. They were willing to go to any length towards that end.
Indeed, had they had that option, the four-time champions would happily have retained Chahar in the first place but since pre-existing franchises were allowed only four retentions and CSK plumped for Ravindra Jadeja, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Moeen Ali and Ruturaj Gaikwad, they had to take the scenic route to grab hold of Chahar all over again.
Patel stayed on with Royal Challengers Bangalore, for whom he was the ace in the pack last season with a remarkable 32 wickets. His changes of pace, especially at the death, when he accounted for more than 70 per cent of the victims, made him one of the most attractive options going into the auction, though RCB will be wondering why they didn’t retain Patel in the first place. After all, they did leave one retention unutilised, content with sticking with the services of former skipper Virat Kohli, Australian maverick Glenn Maxwell and Siraj.
Had RCB retained Patel as their fourth player, they would have had to dish out ₹6 crore, in which case they could have left themselves with an additional ₹4.5 crore to chase other resources.
One can only surmise that they did make the offer and Patel wanted to try his hand at the auction, confident that he would attract a bigger purse, because, as the rules exist, the first right of refusal when it comes to retention lies with the player, not the franchise.
Crazy auction dynamics
Patel wasn’t the only old-timer RCB shelled out big bucks for. Sri Lankan leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga also cost them ₹10.75 crore, another example of the crazy auction dynamics where sometimes, there seems little correlation between performance/potential and the actual selling price.
One of the other visible trends was that once franchises decided they were going after a player, there was no stopping them. This was evident not just with Patel and Chahar, but most tellingly with Kishan, the pint-sized wicketkeeper and explosive batsman from Jharkhand.
Like CSK, Mumbai Indians couldn’t retain Kishan because they stuck with Rohit Sharma, Bumrah, Kieron Pollard and Suryakumar Yadav. But they wanted Kishan desperately to shape their challenges for the future and upped the ante so aggressively that the others finally backed out at ₹15.25 crore. Kishan thus became the second most expensive Indian player in all IPLs, behind Yuvraj Singh, for whom Delhi Capitals (then Delhi Daredevils) shelled out ₹16 crore in 2015.
Kolkata Knight Riders were only a shade behind in their pursuit of Shreyas Iyer, who was among the first lot of marquee players and went for ₹12.25 crore. Iyer is expected to lead his new franchise.
No room for sentiment
That the teams have emphatically weaned away from sentiment and the lure of reputations was obvious from the cold shoulder to one-time Mr IPL Suresh Raina and Australian ace Steve Smith.
Raina has fallen on hard times since exiting IPL 2020 even before the tournament began in the UAE. Not even CSK, renowned for bringing their own back into their fold, were moved enough to seek out one of their most loyal and valuable past servants.
Smith, who has captained Pune Warriors India, Rising Pune Supergiant and Rajasthan Royals, found no takers as franchises steadfastly resisted the temptation of allowing success in one format to cloud their judgment while forming teams in another.