With the IPL auction now less than a week away, it is becoming increasingly clear that veteran Indian players such as Yuvraj Singh and Ishant Sharma are unlikely to attract much interest from the franchises. Yuvraj was released by the Kings XI Punjab after a horror IPL-11 where he scored just 64 runs in seven games at an average of 12.80. Since then he had a modest Vijay Hazare Trophy for Punjab, only scoring 264 runs in 7 matches with a top-score of 96 against Railways.
“There are no emotions when we go into the auctions looking to build our side,” Delhi Capitals’s co-owner Parth Jindal had told CricketNext recently. “We all know about someone like Yuvraj’s form and fitness so far this season. All franchises will do their homework well,”
Ishant, on the other hand, didn’t even attract a bid last time around and it is unlikely that he will get franchise owners too excited, especially with several young Indian fast bowlers to choose from. Among them is Saurashtra left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat, who was picked up for a whopping Rs. 11.5 crores by Rajasthan Royals at the last auction but has been released. Unadkat enters the auction on December 18 in Jaipur with a base price of Rs 1.5 crores — the highest among the 226 Indian cricketers on offer.
After Unadkat, the costliest Indian cricketers on offer are Axar Patel, Yuvraj Singh, Wriddhiman Saha and Mohammad Shami — all at base price of Rs.1 crore. Patel might be on the radar of a couple of franchises after being released by Kings XI, who already have plenty of variety in spin led by their skipper Ravichandran Ashwin and Afghanistan’s Mujeeb-ur-Rahman.
“Axar is quite a useful bowler and Delhi as well as Rajasthan are short of spinners in their line-up,” Amrit Mathur, the former CEO of Delhi franchise, told CricketNext. “I think he’ll get quite a good deal with a lot of franchises interested in quality Indian spinners,”
While Indian fast bowlers have always been prize buys for the IPL, with the 2019 World Cup set to take place immediately after IPL-12, there is talk that the Indian team management might request the workload of their pace bowlers to be managed. This is a factor that will surely come into the calculations of franchises, especially when it comes to considering a player such as Shami, who may make the cut for the World Cup. The Capitals were already wary of such a situation, which is why they off-loaded Shami.
“Any franchise that picks Shami will expect him to lead their attack but if he has to be rested for half the tournament then teams will much rather opt for younger pacemen like Barinder Sran or Mohit Sharma or Varun Aaron,” Mathur said.
“Ishant Sharma like Yuvraj looks over the hill for the IPL format. I’ll be surprised if he generates interest going by his past IPL record and the fact that he went unsold last year.”
Aaron had a successful run in the Vijay Hazare trophy with 18 wickets while Unadkat had claimed 16 wickets.
“Teams will be willing to bet on some Under-19 seamers as well,” a franchise official said. “There are also young spinners like Odisha’s Pappu Roy, who is believed to be a promising talent and Tamil Nadu leg-spinner Varun Chakravarthy was very successful in the Vijay Hazare trophy.”
Among the wicketkeepers Saha is in the Rs. 1 crore bracket while Naman Ojha is available for Rs. 75 lakhs.
“Saha’s fitness is a big question mark because he still hasn’t returned to first-class cricket,” another franchise owner said. “While Naman has struggled to hit top form and he is also over 35 years of age. But Kings XI, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad are all looking for Indian wicketkeepers, so Saha and Naman could be answers for them.”
The consensus among all franchises is that they want to cover most bases with a lot of uncertainty over the availability of players and even the venue of the tournament, which might need to be moved out of the country to South Africa or the United Arab Emirates if the dates clash with the general elections in India.
“Apart from Indian bowlers, South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies players will be in demand to ensure that teams are prepared for all kinds of surfaces,” Mathur said. “The franchises will be wary of England and Australian players, so the safest bet are young Indian cricketers.”
The Jaipur auction will be a truncated affair with only 70 spots to fill among the eight franchises. Most of the teams are well stocked up in all departments, with the exception of Kings XI Punjab (11 Indians & 4 foreign) and newly-rechristened Delhi Capitals (7 Indians, 3 foreign) who have a purse of Rs 36.20 crores and Rs 25.5 crores respectively. The Royals, after off-loading Unadkat, also have Rs 20.95 crores in their kitty and will be looking for 7 Indian and 3 overseas buys.