Latest player auction demonstrates the magic of the IPL

Latest player auction demonstrates the magic of the IPL
Updated 28 January 2018

Latest player auction demonstrates the magic of the IPL

Latest player auction demonstrates the magic of the IPL

JOHANNESBURG: Back in December 2010, at the start of a Test series in South Africa, Zaheer Khan was injured. Instead of choosing the speedy Umesh Yadav as a replacement, MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten — the captain-coach combination — went for the left-field option. Jaidev Unadkat, a left-arm pace bowler like Zaheer, was just 19 and had hardly played first-class cricket.
Thrown in at the deep end at Supersport Park in Centurion, he sank beneath the weight of expectation, taking 0 for 101 as India lost by an innings. Zaheer returned for the next game, Unadkat was dropped, and quickly forgotten.
Around the same time, Chris Gayle, then 31, was contemplating the near-breakdown of his relationship with the West Indies Cricket Board. His first two seasons in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had been nothing to send postcards home about, and the franchise opted not to retain his services for the 2011 season.
A few months later, West Indies exited the World Cup at the quarterfinal stage. India went on to win it, though the players didn’t even get a week to soak it up before they were straight back into the caravanserai that is the IPL. And as Unadkat tried to progress under the tutelage of Wasim Akram, the bowling coach for KKR, Gayle was on the outside.
That changed when Dirk Nannes, the Australian paceman, got injured, and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) decided to sign Gayle as a replacement. In 12 matches that season, he smashed 608 from 332 balls as the franchise reached the final. In the next two years, he would make 733 and 708 runs at extraordinary strike rates to set the template for Twenty20 batting.
Seven years on from that lone Test cap, Unadkat has just been signed up by Rajasthan Royals — returning after a two-year ban for their role in the 2013 spot-fixing scandal — for a whopping $1,796,000. From one-Test wonder to the most expensive Indian player at the auction, Unadkat’s career trajectory has been rather different from Gayle’s.

The self-proclaimed Universe Boss was ignored the first two times his name came up. The third time, just as the auction was winding down, Kings XI Punjab stepped in and bought him at his base price of $312,000.
In seasons past, Gayle would spend the months preceding the IPL in Australia, illuminating the Big Bash League (BBL) with his nonchalant six-hitting. This time, he was a notable absentee, with no BBL franchise wanting to take a punt on someone considered too high-maintenance after a furor involving tasteless remarks made to a female TV journalist last season. That aside, Gayle’s output with the bat had also dipped. RCB didn’t even give any serious thought to retaining him, as they did Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.

The new top gun is England’s Ben Stokes. His international future may be under a cloud, because of an upcoming trial for affray, but that did not stop Rajasthan splashing out $1,953,000 for his services. Having proved his worth with the now-disbanded Pune franchise last season, Stokes will once again be a candidate for MVP honors.
The theme, as the league sets sail for a second decade, is very much one of moving on, unless you are the MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings, who have packed their squad with over-30s. KKR signed Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi, two exciting pace prospects from the U-19 team currently playing in the World Cup in New Zealand, for a combined outlay of nearly $1 million, and the contracts given to Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichhane and four Afghans tell you just how attitudes to scouting talent have changed in the past decade.
For every legend such as Dale Steyn or Hashim Amla who was overlooked, there is a Darcy Short or Jofra Archer eager to make themself household names. That really is the magic of the IPL.


Top dollar
With an annual salary of $2,343,000, Rishabh Pant will make as much as Dhoni and Rohit Sharma. Only Kohli will earn more. That is quite a stunning investment on a 20-year-old whose international experience amounts to two Twenty20Is. Ricky Ponting, the new Delhi Daredevils coach, has the responsibility of making sure the wicketkeeper-batsman lives up to the hype.

Basement bargain
Just over a week ago, Lungi Ngidi took seven for 90 in a Test victory against India. Chennai, who have otherwise leaned heavily on experienced hands, spent a mere $78,000 to sign him up. If he can stay fit, he will be jarring some bat handles this Indian summer.