And the biggest talking point of this year's auction was --- this column takes its cricket seriously --- the absence of Preity Zinta. The last time she participated in the auction, newspapers gushed about how she was there despite suffering from a severe toothache. Some newspapers made it sound as if it was an act more valorous than Anil Kumble bowling in West Indies with a strapped broken jaw.
Preity, who spearheaded King's XI's bidding last time around, was doubtless under the influence of heavy sedation (to overcome the toothache), which alone could perhaps explain the Kings XI picking a squad without a proper wicket-keeper. But to be fair, Kings XI boasted of a bowling attack to which a wicket-keeper always seemed extraneous. We mean, when the ball is mostly travelling to the boundary why would you need a wicket-keeper?
Okay, enough of Preity (not really), we will focus on the latest auction and ponder over the many intriguing questions it threw up like, well, why was Juhi Chawla not seen at the KKR table?
Just kidding. The questions that beg for answers pertain to some players getting picked for astronomical sums. For instance, if you are wondering why was Prabhsimran Singh roped in for Rs. 4.8 crore, we urge you to read this column till the end by which time we hope to think up some reason to explain the strange buy at that price.
Here are some talking heads from the auction, which we should say, was a lot more interesting and made for more compelling viewing than the India-West Indies series:
Varun Chakravarthy: This architect turned cricketer being picked by Kings XI Punjab for Rs. 8.4 crore, an amount that we news reporters are compelled by the rules of the Press Council to describe as 'whopping' even though most of us have no earthly clue what 'whopping' actually means, was easily the main cricketing headline on the day of auction. Just as well, because otherwise we would have been forced to read about Indian team's abject capitulation in the Perth Test.
Now Varun is a mystery spinner, though not on the lines of Sunil Narine, who more or less does not spin the ball at all and the real mystery is over why he is called a spinner in the first place. Varun, a standout star in Siechem Madurai Panthers' title triumph in the TNPL this year, 'planned and plotted' out his dismissals because he had in his arsenal what no other bowler has: An architecture degree.
Reading about Varun in the news media, this is what we can surmise: He can bowl the leg-break, the off-break, everything in-between, the carrom ball, the chess ball, the spinning ball that goes straight, the straight ball that spins, the slower one with a fastish action, the faster one with a slow action, and the 'soduku' ball, which is Tamil for any other possible delivery that does not fall under the above descriptions. As you can see, the only delivery that Varun does not do is --- wait for it --- Cesarean.
By picking Varun, the Kings XI think-tank has added more spinning muscle to the attack that already features Mujeeb ur Rahman and Ravichandran Ashwin. Now to make this trio fire on all cylinders, the team management should do the logical thing of somehow playing all its home matches in Sydney.
Another interesting buy from Kings XI is Sam Curran. Despite him being not a big part of England's shorter-versions' teams, Curran has been picked for a big sum for a valid cricketing reason: The name 'Sam Curran' can be anagrammed to 'scram a run'.
Jaydev Unadkat: Rajasthan Royals picked him for Rs. 11.5 crore last year, released him after his none too impressive performance, aggressively bid for him again and picked him at Rs. 8.4 crore. This is a cunning strategy that only professional stand-up comedians could have come up with. But with Unadkat, and players like Steve Smith, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Joffra Archer, Oshane Thomas, K Gowtham, Rajasthan Royals is certainly a formidable team. Yet, it cannot take things for granted, as the squad also comprises Stuart Binny.
Rajasthan Royals is one of the popular teams, not the least for the fact that whenever you googled for information on them, one of the accompanying suggestions was, “People who searched this also searched for: Shilpa Shetty Hot”.
Rajasthan Royals have also picked Varun Aaron (for Rs. 2.4 crore) despite strong evidence that he is actually Varun Aaron. We mean he is the sort of bowler who either goes for runs and hurts his team's chances or does not go for runs because he is injured and not bowling.
Lasith Malinga and Yuvraj Singh: Both Malinga and Yuvraj bring to the table that one aspect that abounded in the title-winning CSK team in 2018: Old age. Seen that way, the picking of Malinga and Yuvraj makes plenty of sense. But seen the from any other cricketing way it has as much logic as demonetisation. Mumbai Indians is the sixth IPL team for Yuvraj. The record for playing in most IPL teams belongs to Aaron Finch at 7, tying him with the number of husbands that Elizabeth Taylor had.
Mumbai Indians also bid strongly for Barinder Sran at Rs. 3.4 crore. Yuvraj once likened Sran, a left-handed fast bowler, to Zaheer Khan. To be fair to Zaheer, he still considers Yuvraj his close friend. Before he turned his sights on cricket, Sran was a boxer. (Editor: Where is the joke in the previous line? This is supposed to be a humour piece.) (Reply to Editor: A sentence with a reference to boxer is, by definition, a punchline.)
Colin Ingram: Ingram is a player suited to the modern world, in that whenever I type his name the computer's auto-suggestion asks, did you mean 'Instagram?' Ingram has been roped in by Delhi Daredevils, which if your word processor is as smart as it thinks it is, should make it Delhi Capitals. Ingram is playing for Glamorgan through the kolpak route, and for Karachi Kings in PSL through the khol Pak route.
(This year, the Madurai franchise in TNPL that had won not even a single match in the previous two editions of the TNPL, walked away with the title. So, what was the amazing trick that the Madurai team pulled off? Simple, it changed from Madurai Super Giant to Siechem Madurai Panthers. If this sterling strategy worked for Madurai, there is no reason why it should not work for Delhi. But if Delhi still does not win, then they should try changing to Siechem Madurai Panthers. That should work.)
Delhi Capitals has also picked Ishant Sharma for Rs. One crore and some change as he knows the Kotla ground well and can possibly find his way to the stadium all by himself without calling and asking for directions. Trent Boult, who does not know local conditions well, once ended up at the Palam ground.
Many West Indies players also went for huge money at the auction as most of them are very successful in various T20 leagues across the globe. The chances of someone like Shimron Hetmyer coming good in IPL is very high, and some newspaper inevitably captioning him after a smashing knock as 'Hitmyer' is higher.
Mohit Sharma: CSK's successful bid for Mohit Sharma at Rs. 5 crore is a clear indication that N Srinivasan is a secret Santa and this is the Christmas season. Another potential explanation for his pick is there was a typo and they read it as Rohit Sharma. Maybe, an invisible Mohit Sharma was holding a gun to CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan's head at the auction table. We can sure cook up many inane reasons for Mohit's pick.
But alas, even our silly brain cannot think one to explain Prabhsimran's choice at that price. And Kings XI also did not have the excuse of having Preity at the auction table.
First Published: December 27, 2018, 12:14 PM IST