The venue was the ITC Hotel in the garden city of Bangalore. Yes, it is time for the most exciting part of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the auction where players were put under the hammer for the teams to buy so as to fill in the last few spots remaining.
This time, there was no Kochi Tuskers Kerala table being seen due to their termination from the IPL, since they defaulted in their payments to the BCCI. But the other nine teams had their owners seen and all were happy to meet each other again on one stage, until it was time to switch from friendship to business, as they compete with each other to get the best players on board this season.
Here are some of those players who were successful in finding a place in the teams and their likely impact in the tournament.
1) Ravindra Jadeja (India)
Referred to as the ‘rock star’ by the legendary Shane Warne, Ravindra Jadeja was easily the most expensive player to be bought this time around.
The 23 year old from Saurashtra first turned out for the Rajasthan Royals in 2008, the team which won the tournament under Warne’s captaincy. Jadeja played a key role alongside Yusuf Pathan in finishing matches with both bat and ball. He was then banned from the IPL 2010 for a breach of contract, but returned in 2011 to play for the now defunct Kochi Tuskers Kerala franchise after being bought at a price of $ USD 950,000, showing his improvement as a T-20 cricketer. In that tournament, he finished as the team’s highest run getter in 14 games, with his transition from a bowling all-rounder to a batting all-rounder who can still bowl well, very smooth.
These days, he is a part of the Indian ODI and T-20 teams and is currently in Australia for the limited overs leg of the tour. He must have been jumping with joy if he would have been following the auction, as Chennai Super Kings and Deccan Chargers had an intense match between them to buy him. Chennai eventually won the tie-breaker, bidding for an undisclosed amount which is definitely above 1 million US dollars.
MS Dhoni has clearly seen Jadeja’s improvement as a player in the last 12 months or so, and perhaps it is on his advice that Jadeja was picked by CSK. The team which has won the IPL twice in a row, now could complete a hat-trick of titles as he is more than just a utility player and more importantly an Indian one, which teams crave for. According to me, this is a smart buy from Chennai since they need a capable lower-order batsman alongside Albie Morkel, who can play the role of the fifth or the sixth bowler, who can squeeze in a couple of overs.
2) R Vinay Kumar (India)
R Vinay Kumar is back to where he belongs, his home team. He made his IPL debut for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2008 season, and played for a span of three years. It was due to his consistent performances that he got a place in the Indian ODI team in 2010 for the tour of Zimbabwe. However, surprisingly Bangalore did not retain him or buy him again in the 2011 IPL auction, instead selling him to Kochi Tuskers Kerala since they bought Zaheer Khan for $ USD 900,000.
This time though, Vinay Kumar was up again in the auction with the Kochi team finished. And Bangalore fought for him, as they eventually snapped him for exactly a million US dollars. Vijay Mallya and co. had definitely planned for his return into the team as the team desperately needed a quality Indian fast bowler, due to Zaheer’s fitness being unpredictable and his bowling in T-20 cricket not up to the mark at times. Vinay Kumar seems to have improved like Jadeja in the last year or so and he too is in Australia at the moment, in contention to play in the ODI series there while also being part of the Test squad although he did not get a game to play.
He has been appropriately rewarded and would be handy for Bangalore even as a lower order batsman, as all sorts of runs matter in T-20 cricket and a few lustrous hits can change the course of the match.
3) Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka)
A year ago, the current Sri Lankan skipper had led the Kochi franchise on the field as well. That team was a flop and now he was back in the reckoning for the other nine teams out of which most of them would have wanted him in their last year itself. Afterall, he is one of the finest T-20 batsmen in world cricket, being versatile, as he can attack from time and time and yet play his conservative natural game simultaneously.
This time he was picked by the Delhi Daredevils (price). All teams were interested in him following his appointment as the captain of Sri Lanka a few days back and he would be available for atleast 7 matches in the tournament due to Sri Lanka’s home series against England. It would be thrilling to see Virender Sehwag, David Warner, Mahela Jayawardene and Kevin Pietersen play together since they form the most destructive T-20 quartet of all time.
He is playing for another north Indian city incidentally, since he turned out for Kings XI Punjab in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and had relatively successful campaigns. Expect more fireworks from him this time around too, now that he is not the captain of the franchise and could bat at No.3 or No.4, which are usually the positions he has scored the most number of runs in.
4) Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
Perhaps one of the most explosive openers in T-20 cricket, ‘Baz’ as McCullum is affectionately called, makes a surprise return to the Kolkata Knight Riders roster as he was the team’s most expensive buy in this auction, being bought at $ USD 900,000. It seemed that he had gone out of favour with SRK and team management following poor performances in the first three years of the tournament, while he led the team in 2009 to the last position in the points table.
But they cannot forget the 158 not out he smashed against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first match of the inaugural IPL season in Bangalore, which is the highest score in T-20 cricket till date and it proves how dangerous he can be once he is in the aggressive mood. Perhaps he was also picked again due to the fact that Brad Haddin would not be available for a majority of the tournament because of Australia’s tour to West Indies and Mark Boucher was his replacement player last year, but too old. So Kolkata needed a world-class and preferably a foreign wicket-keeper batsman and who better than the elder, tattooed McCullum?
Besides, he will be available for the entire season this year and had a good showing with Kochi last year when he opened the batting for the team with either VVS Laxman or Mahela Jayawardene. So Kolkata felt the need to do the unthinkable and welcome him back into a team which is new-looking for him and perhaps much better to deal with. He could be the team’s trump card this season, with his opening partner in all probability would be Jacques Kallis of South Africa making them an unlikely but exciting opening pair to watch out of all in the tournament.
5) Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)
The legendary spin wizard from Sri Lanka had retired from international cricket following the World Cup final defeat in 2011 to India in Mumbai. Since then, his stocks seems to have plummeted since he did not perform to the standards he has been known for over the years with the Kochi team, despite being picked for $1.2 million by them in the last year’s auction, defeating his former team Chennai Super Kings in the bid.
Come the 2012 IPL auction and it turns out that hardly any team was interested in availing his services, despite his success for CSK in the tournament’s history. CSK themselves did not want to intensely bid for him this time. Fortunately, the Royal Challengers Bangalore were interested in buying him, and eventually did for $220,000 only, too low for a bowler who has picked the most number of wickets in international cricket. This, after his base price was $200,000, the same as Mahela Jayawardene.
I still feel that this is the best pick of the RCB team and perhaps one of the best in the auction this year since Murali will be available for the whole season and of course very few batsmen in the world are comfortable playing against him, even in T-20 cricket despite him not being in his prime. He would come into tournament fresh as a daisy in terms of his mind and body, and that will be crucial for Bangalore to go one step further than last year and fulfill their dream of winning the IPL.
6) Sunil Narine (West Indies)
This was definitely the most surprise pick of them all, considering the money spent on him despite his base price of $50000. Narine hails from Trinidad and Tobago, and he impressed many with the 12 overs of spin he bowled in the Champions League 2011 being the ‘mystery’ bowler for other teams to face. Perhaps, Kolkata Knight Riders were watching the tournament closely and decided to bid for him as they needed a capable foreign spin bowler to strengthen the bowling, which has been their perennial weakness in the last four years.
He was picked for $700,000 eventually after some intense bidding from Kolkata as well as Mumbai. It will be fascinating to see though, how will he fit in the scheme of the Knight Riders plans with four foreign players in the team, likely to be Jacques Kallis, Ryan ten Doeschate, Brett Lee and either Brendon McCullum, Shakib al Hasan or Eoin Morgan. Besides, who knows if he can repeat his performances in the Champions League as he has been judged inadequately by the franchise, on the basis of just three games for Trinidad and Tobago.
7) Parthiv Patel (India)
Parthiv had turned out for the Chennai Super Kings in the first three seasons of the IPL, and was picked by the Kochi Tuskers Kerala for the fourth season as the team required an Indian wicketkeeper batsman alongside Brendon McCullum who was relieved of wicketkeeping duties and just opened the batting. The southpaw can bat anywhere in the order, but normally is an opening batsman for whichever team he has played for.
He was picked this year by the lowly Deccan Chargers for this year’s IPL for a whopping $650,000 despite there being challenges from Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab, who also needed an Indian wicketkeeper desperately after Dinesh Karthik was sold to Mumbai. Deccan is likely to relieve Kumar Sangakkara, the captain from wicketkeeping duties when he is playing and Parthiv could also keep in Sanga’s absence since he will play England in a Test series at home.
8) Rudra Pratap Singh (India)
Another ex-Kochi player had attracted franchises big time this season. RP Singh was expected to have many takers, since an Indian fast bowler is always an asset to possess for any team in the IPL. Besides, he is the highest wicket-taker in IPL cricket having done wonders for Deccan Chargers in the first three years of the tournament,
Although his fitness has been a matter of concern, yet franchises started bidding for him at his base price of $200,000. Deccan Chargers, his former team seemed to want him back and Rajasthan Royals also attempted to block that move since they too needed a quality Indian fast bowler. Yet, Mumbai Indians came in at the last minute to bid with the price going up to $600,000 and that was enough to keep Deccan and Rajasthan quiet as Mumbai gained a quality fast bowler which has been lacking in the team since the absence of Zaheer Khan.
But the Rajasthan Royals did manage to get temperamental fast bowler S Sreesanth for his base price of $400,000 with no other team interested in purchasing him. The Shilpa Shetty-owned team seemed to be on a buying spree in the auction, as their aim continued to be to rely on their foreign players. The ‘comeback’ man Brad Hogg, despite being 41, was picked for $180,000 by the team, perhaps as a replacement for Shane Warne. Another oldie, Brad Hodge was bid viciously for and Rajasthan won the battle for getting the highest run-scorer in all form of T-20s, for $475,000. Sri Lankan wicket-keeper batter who is just 23 years of age, Dinesh Chandimal was bought at a base price of $50,000. And last but not the least, Trinidad and Tobago’s Kevon Cooper was picked for $50,000 although he played well in just one game of last year’s Champions League against the Chennai Super Kings.
The winners of that Champions League, Mumbai Indians also seem to be strengthened to win this year’s IPL with the blend of players being picked, were well planned. They narrowly missed out on picking Brendon McCullum and Sunil Narine to the Kolkata Knight Riders. But they went to pick for a price of $50,000 the South African experienced opener, Herschelle Gibbs who played for Deccan Chargers in the first three seasons and has been in good form for the Perth Scorchers in the recently concluded Big Bash T-20 league in Australia. Next up, their target was Mitchell Johnson, the out of favour Australian bowler who has finally looked up to the IPL riches as a motivation to improve his performances in order to win a place back in the national team in the near future, although it is unlikely. He was purchased for his base price of $300,000.
Johnson was picked alongside RP Singh in the fast bowling department, and these two are expected to support Lasith Malinga in troubling opposition batsmen. Alongside Harbhajan Singh, Mumbai’s bowling attack at the moment seems to be the strongest amongst all the teams in the IPL this season. In the all-rounders category, Mumbai picked yet another South African in left-arm spinner Robin Peterson who can also bat a bit, for his base price of $100,000. This is another utility pack since he will be available for the full season and can be a replacement for either Andrew Symonds or James Franklin for the all-rounders spot. While the Sri Lankan lower-order batsman who can open the bowling if required, Thisira Perera who was bid for intensely considering that his base price was $50,000. Perera was picked for $650,000 after a close contest with Deccan Chargers, due to his hard-hitting abilities as seen in the World Cup final last year and his performances in the first three years for the Chennai Super Kings and the Kochi Tuskers Kerala last season.
Speaking of Deccan Chargers, they seemed to have lost more bids than they won this auction, with the Ravindra Jadeja being the best example of this, and may have missed a trick by ignoring players such as Farveez Maharoof, Owais Shah, Moises Henriques and Ryan McLaren since the team needs a potential foreign all-rounder after having a dearth of batsmen in the team. Yet, they managed to pick Parthiv Patel who could play a key role in turning around their fortunes. Followed by Patel, they went on to pick South Australian and Adelaide Strikers all-rounder Daniel Harris who impressed in the Champions League last year, for a mere $70,000 as well as Darren Bravo, who is considered as Brian Lara’s replica in the West Indies and one of the fastest emerging talents in world cricket, was picked for $100,000 after being ignored in the first round.
Kings XI Punjab continues to look weak on paper, even though they finished 5th last season. It is unfortunate that the team has been incompetent in the auctions of the last two seasons, since they have not got the players they have desired or they seem to believe that their players are of such high quality that they do not need to strengthen their squad, which is their misconception. Having said that, they picked Tasmanian all-rounder James Faulkner who was a part of the Hobart Hurricanes team which made it into the last four of the Big Bash this season, for $190,000.
As well as Azhar Mahmood, who is now British by nationality but an ex-Pakistani all-rounder for $200,000. This is an interesting pick as he may thrive in English conditions in county cricket but it remains to be seen if he can perform that well in India, where he otherwise does not claim to have a great record. While amongst the Indian players, they were able to buy back the spinner who is known for his weight in the country, Ramesh Powar for $160,000 which seems to be unnecessary since Punjab already have a quality leg-spinner in Piyush Chawla.
Delhi Daredevils though seems to have finally woken up during the time of the auction and get to the reality of picking well-reputed players in T-20 cricket in the team. After buying Kevin Pietersen outside the auction, they followed that with 1.4 million dollars for Mahela Jayawardene. Apart from those two, they were perhaps watching the India-West Indies ODIs in India last November and impressed by the young West Indies’ all-rounder Andre Russell’s skills with the ball, bat and when he is fielding, He was picked for a whopping $450,000 because his base price was a mere $50,000. The other overseas cricketer Delhi purchased was Doug Bracewell, the New Zealand fast bowler who was sidelined when his name was called out the first time. Although he was only picked for $50,000, he has become one of the most popular names in the cricketing globe following his key role in New Zealand winning a Test match in Australia for the first time since 1985.
Kolkata Knight Riders in addition to McCullum and Narine, picked the South African rookie pacer Marchant de Lange in the team for $50,000 itself. He made a name for himself by picking 7 wickets on Test debut against Sri Lanka in Durban two months ago. While the powerhouses Chennai Super Kings and the Royal Challengers Bangalore had spent their entire purse of $2 million on a few players itself.
The fate of Pune Warriors India remains to be seen after they did not take part in the IPL auction having backed out of the sponsorship of the Indian cricket team as well apparently the franchise, putting the IPL future of the team’s players in dilemma such as of Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, captain Yuvraj Singh and Graeme Smith to name a few.