As many as 11 players, a full cricket team if you like, crossed the ₹10 crore mark at the IPL 2022 mega-auction in Bengaluru last weekend. That’s nearly thrice as many as the four who reached that level in the previous mega-auction in 2018. There was sound logic behind some of these valuations, while some others seemed to defy any logic. Here’s an assessment of the thinking behind the top 11 buys at the auction.
Ishan Kishan, ₹15.25 crore, Mumbai Indians: Mumbai Indians (MI) had already spent ₹42 crore out of their purse of ₹90 crore on the maximum of four players allowed to be retained before the auction. And yet, they went over ₹15 crore to buy back dashing wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan, leaving a shade below ₹ 33 crore for the 20 other players they bought. It limited their options to buy a few more gun players, resulting in holes in the playing 11. Why would they do that?
There are only three other young Indian wicketkeepers with that kind of batting ability, and all of them are captains of IPL teams: Rishabh Pant of Delhi Capitals, KL Rahul of Lucknow Super Giants, and Sanju Samson of Rajasthan Royals. Considering the ₹16 crore for Pant, ₹17 crore for Rahul, and ₹14 crore for Samson, Kishan’s price doesn’t seem outlandish.
The option was to try and buy back South African wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock, who was picked up by Lucknow Super Giants for just ₹6.75 crore. But the MI think tank wanted an Indian for this key slot going forward in the next two seasons as well, because only four foreign players are allowed in the playing 11. Kishan behind the wickets gives them more flexibility in fielding foreign players in varying conditions.
Deepak Chahar, ₹14 crore, Chennai Super Kings: One of the keys to MS Dhoni’s success with Chennai Super Kings (CSK) has been to give Deepak Chahar an extended spell with the new ball to take early wickets. He’s the only genuine swing bowler at the top level in India, and has had a couple of big knocks with the bat too for India recently.
Could they have tried to retain him instead? He would’ve been in the third slot after Ravindra Jadeja ( ₹16 crore) and MS Dhoni ( ₹12 crore). That slot had a cap of ₹8 crore, which was too low for a proven all-rounder. So CSK played fair with Chahar by releasing him into the auction and then bidding high to get him back. That’s typical of the CSK culture that has helped the franchise win four IPL titles.
Shreyas Iyer, ₹12.25 crore, Kolkata Knight Riders: Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had decided to let skipper Eoin Morgan go, even though he had led them to the final last year. That’s because Morgan’s batting is in such a shambles that it is too big a liability.
Shreyas Iyer led Delhi Capitals to the playoffs in 2020 for the first time in seven years. Then he got injured and replaced by the equally successful Rishabh Pant the following year. KKR’s need and Iyer’s availability made for a perfect match. A young Indian skipper with proven quality is a long-term asset, and his Test century on debut against New Zealand last November makes him a reliable anchor too for the KKR middle order.
Liam Livingstone, ₹11.5 crore, Punjab Kings: This was at the top of the wish-list of the former leg-spin maestro Anil Kumble, who is currently Punjab Kings’ coach. He wanted a wicket-taking leg-spinner who can also tonk the ball. Punjab Kings tried hard to get Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga, but bailed out of the bidding at ₹10.75 crore after a break in proceedings when auctioneer Hugh Edmeades collapsed. Then they went even higher for Livingstone.
The England all-rounder’s exploits so far have all come outside the IPL in different conditions. He has played nine IPL games in two seasons, making a total of 113 runs and taking no wickets. His performance will have to change dramatically this time to justify the big bucks showered on him.
Wanindu Hasaranga, ₹10.75 crore, Royal Challengers Bangalore: Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) were left holding Hasaranga when Punjab Kings fled the bidding war at ₹10.75 crore. RCB had him in the squad last season too, but gave him only two games, in which he took no wickets and had an economy rate of 10. Then in the T20 World Cup that followed, he took 10 wickets in the Super Six league stage, including a hat-trick against South Africa, at an economy rate below six. But most of his success came in very spin-friendly conditions in Sharjah. How he fares on other grounds in this year’s IPL, time will tell. So, going so high on him, on current evidence, defies logic, when Indian leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal went for a song at ₹6.5 crore to Rajasthan Royals, and Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who helped the Kangaroos win the 2021 T20 World Cup title, remained unsold.
Harshal Patel, ₹10.75 crore, Royal Challengers Bangalore: Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) had a second big buy in Harshal Patel, the highest wicket-taker by far in last year’s IPL with 32 wickets for RCB. The franchise could’ve retained him but it would’ve capped the payout for Patel at ₹8 crore, after the ₹15 crore for Virat Kohli and ₹11 crore for Glenn Maxwell. That would’ve been too low for a successful Indian all-rounder, so RCB did the right thing by letting him earn more via the auction. But this was even more reason to consider options to Hasaranga for the leg-spinner slot. Spending ₹47.5 crore, more than half the purse, for four players meant that RCB ended up with a weak middle order, again.
Nicholas Pooran, ₹10.75 crore, Sunrisers Hyderabad: West Indies wicketkeeper-batsman Nicholas Pooran flopped in the last IPL, making just 85 runs in 12 games. But he was a hit in the 2020 IPL, averaging 35 with a strike rate of 170. That’s as good as it gets. Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) are obviously hoping it’s the 2020 avatar of Pooran that shows up this season, by choosing him as their biggest buy of the auction.
Shardul Thakur, ₹10.75 crore, Delhi Capitals: Delhi Capitals (DC) topped the table last year with the best pace bowling attack in the league: Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, and Avesh Khan. Now, in place of Avesh Khan, who took 24 wickets for them last season, they’ve brought in Shardul Thakur, who took three wickets in the 2021 final for CSK. Thakur brings the added value of his batting, but lacks the pace of Khan, and proves expensive from time to time when batsmen collar his variations. DC should perhaps have tried to continue with the young Delhi speedster after helping him come of age last year.
Avesh Khan, ₹10 crore, Lucknow Super Giants: Delhi’s loss was Lucknow’s gain. The franchise’s advisor, the usually grim Gautam Gambhir, appeared chuffed when the hammer came down on ₹10 crore for Avesh Khan, LSG’s biggest buy at the auction. Along with Mark Wood of England, LSG have the firepower to rattle batsmen on the bouncy tracks of Mumbai and Pune, the likely venues for all IPL matches this year.
Prasidh Krishna, ₹10 crore, Rajasthan Royals: Another tall young Indian speedster, Prasidh Krishna, was the player of the ODI series against the West Indies in the week leading up to the auction, so the interest in him wasn’t surprising. KKR probably erred in not retaining him, just as they erred in not playing him in last year’s final on the Dubai wicket. But Krishna is in good company now at RR with the experienced Trent Boult and Nathan Coulter-Nile, who can aid his development.
Lockie Ferguson, ₹10 crore, Gujarat Titans: The Kiwi fast bowler, who is in the rarefied 150 kmph club, had a good IPL last year, with 13 wickets in eight matches. With Alzarri Joseph of the West Indies and India’s Mohammad Shami accompanying Ferguson, Gujarat Titans have a lethal pace battery. And if batsmen hope for relief in the middle overs after the opening spells by the pacers, they will find the deadly Afghanistan leg-spinner, Rashid Khan, waiting for them. Gujarat have a dodgy batting lineup, but that bowling unit will win them a few games and give fans an awe-inspiring spectacle.
More than half the players on this list of top 11 buys at the IPL 2022 mega-auction are pace bowlers, a clear indication that the franchises expect the pace-friendly Mumbai and Pune to be the venues this year.
Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru.