Every IPL auction brings with it its regular quota of surprise picks and omissions. While many uncapped India players made the first category on Saturday’s auction, Usman Khawaja and Martin Guptill were probably the shock omissions this time around. Guptill has been one of the world’s best white-ball players in the past year; during this period, he averages 49.12 in nine T20Is with a strike rate of 165.12, besides scoring nearly 1600 runs at 63.72 in ODIs.
Khawaja, on the other hand, is in the form of his life, having racked up three big hundreds and a fifty in his last five Test innings. More pertinently from an IPL perspective, he smashed 345 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 163.5 not too long ago to give Sydney Thunder their first Big Bash League title. Some of the other big names missing out were Mahela Jayawardene, Michael Hussey and George Bailey The marketplace, though, is not given to such sentiments, and franchises said there were good reasons why they did not go for these players. “I think teams had very clear strategies at the top of the [batting] order,” Raghu Iyer, CEO of the Rising Pune Super Giants, told ESPNcricinfo.
“Almost every team had a settled opening pair. We, too, had Faf du Plessis, and then bought Kevin Pietersen and Steven Smith. However good these players were we couldn’t accommodate them in our plans. [However] Khawaja was really unlucky not to have been picked by any team.”
Another franchise’s mentor, however, said it was pointless to pick up players if the teams were not going to play them. “Although they are very good T20 players, all these teams have settled opening pairs,” he said. “If you look at Sunrisers Hyderabad, they have [David] Warner and Shikhar [Dhawan], Mumbai Indians have Lendl [Simmons] and Parthiv [Patel]. You don’t want a class player like Guptill or Khawaja to sit out the entire season.”
Iyer felt this was an extension of the prudence that franchises have displayed in recent years when it comes to spending on foreign players. “Even in this auction they have been a lot more rational with their prices on foreign players. They went all out only for the players they wanted. In Shane Watson, RCB got the allrounder they wanted, likewise we went for Mitchell Marsh and Delhi for Chris Morris. These are sureshot picks in the playing XI.
“The Indian boys, on the other hand, have gone for a lot of money. It’s sometimes difficult to predict the auction dynamics, but it augurs well for the Indian boys.”
Iyer also said that a number of players were likely to not be bid for given the nature of the auction itself. “It’s a mini-auction with most teams going into it with a settled core already. Of course, in our case we had to build our entire squad and we are quite satisfied with we bought. But settled teams like MI or KKR were looking for back-ups and to plug a few holes here and there.”
A member of the coaching staff of a franchise, however, said some players were not in the wishlist of teams because of their relative ineffectiveness in Indian conditions: “How much of Guptill’s performances are inside New Zealand and how much outside? There were doubts about his adaptability in Indian conditions. Even [RPSG coach] Stephen Fleming didn’t go for him.”
Guptill has an average of 38.37 from the 10 ODIs he has played in India. He has, however, played only one T20I and scored five runs. Khawaja, though, did well in India last year when he captained the Australia A team and scored two fifties and a hundred in a tri-series featuring India and South Africa’s A sides.
Players like Bailey or Hussey, despite his successful run with the Sydney Thunder, were perhaps deemed to be relatively high-priced. While Hussey had put his base price at INR 2 crore, Bailey sought one crore for his services. It is understood there were reservations in the Kings XI Punjab camp about Bailey’s ability to command a place in the side as a specialist batsman alone. “They might have thought that having him as captain blocked a slot for another foreign player, like Shaun Marsh,” an IPL insider said. “These things matter a great deal too.”
( By Arun Venugopal, correspondent at ESPNcricinfo)