The IPL 2021 auction was a perfect lesson in macroeconomics. There was unprecedented inflation for pacers and pace bowling all-rounders. With not many big Indian players in the auction, franchises had to figure out the best foreign buys to suit their side. Hence, it was the case of many teams gunning for the same few players. For some lucky ones, this resulted in a price tag that is not a clear reflection of their potential.
Here is a brief look at the depth of each team after the shopping for the upcoming season is over for the time being -
The Royals finished at the bottom of IPL 2020 due to a lean middle-order and underperforming Indian fast bowlers. In the auction this year, RR were one of the better teams with tactical buys in Chris Morris and backups in Riley Meredith and Mustafizur Rahman. The uncapped left-arm pacer, Chetan Sakariya, was one of the best bowlers in the recent edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) and is an addition as a domestic pacer.
By spending money on pacers while releasing Steve Smith ahead of the auction, RR have made it clear that they are going to use two overseas spots for fast bowlers. Morris is likely to join Archer in the first XI. If he remains fit, Morris can be a solution to RR’s death-over bowling issue. RR also did well to snap Shivam Dube who adds some meat in the lower middle-order. However, RR still have a weaker middle-order than most other sides. But, that is not because of the misjudgments of this auction.
Chennai Super Kings
The Super Kings seemed very clear on the players they wanted. A power-hitter and an off-spinner were the categories CSK missed last year. In the auction, there were three players available with both capabilities. CSK went for all three of them. They did not have enough funds to sustain the bid for Glenn Maxwell but were able to buy both Moeen Ali and Krishnappa Gowtham.
CSK bought three other unknown Indian players at their base price. But one of the biggest surprise (read delightful) of the auction was Cheteshwar Pujara’s pick. Not sure how he fits into any T20 side’s setup but he matches the maturity level that MS Dhoni expects his players to have.
PBKS had INR 15.35 crores more in their kitty than the next most affluent side. They ended the auction with INR 18.8 crores unused. In Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith, they have plugged their death bowling issues. Richardson was the leading wicket-taker in the recent edition of the Big Bash League. Meredith was impressive as well and is capable of bowling yorkers at pace.
One department that PBKS could have done better is the foreign all-rounder spot for the lower middle-order. While bidding for Kyle Jamieson and Chris Morris they pulled out even after having a bigger purse than RCB and RR. After losing out on Jamieson, they settled for Moises Henriques who is not a basher as a team would want their lower middle-order batsman to be. Moreover, with 12 overs bowled since 2019, he is not an all-rounder either.
PBKS did well to buy Fabian Allen later who is likely to be in their first XI. They bought him at his base price after losing out on Shakib Al Hasan to KKR earlier. Also, they bought Shahrukh Khan - who did well in SMAT - to have more Indian options in the middle order. PBKS were able to buy Dawid Malan at his base price but he will be a backup for Chris Gayle.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR bought eighth players in the auction. But none of them will walk into their first XI. As they went for budget picks, KKR also spent the least money per player (INR 0.97 Crore). The most notable buy for them was Shakib who reunites with them for INR 3.2 Crore. Compared to the price at which other inexperienced all-rounders went for, Shakib was a steal.
KKR were quiet through most of the auction but came back in the accelerated period to snap Karun Nair, Harbhajan Singh and Ben Cutting at their base price. Cutting is a backup for the fragile Andre Russell while Harbhajan is a cover for the uncertain form of Kuldeep Yadav or even Sunil Narine. They also bid for Krishnappa Gowtham but, could not keep up with CSK and SRH. KKR also bought a cover for Dinesh Karthik in Sheldon Jackson.
It was surprising that KKR did not add Indian pacers into their mix apart from the unknown Vaibhav Arora. Even after testing them for three seasons, their Indian pace department continues to be their weakest link.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
In a somewhat questionable overhaul, RCB released 11 players before the auction. Other franchises saw more value in players like Moeen Ai and Chris Morris than RCB did themselves. They surprised everyone by bidding for Steve Smith up front but did not continue after the initial bid.
RCB set the tone by shelling INR 14.25 crores to buy Maxwell as support for AB de Villiers in the middle-order. They bought three players at their base price after Maxwell. Noticeable one being the star of recent SMAT – Mohammed Azharuddeen. RCB then surpassed their bid for Maxwell to get Kiwi all-rounder Kyle Jamieson for INR 15 crores. They wrapped things up with a surprise buy of Daniel Christian for INR 4.8 crores.
While RCB have fixed some issues, they have played a punt on unknown players that could backfire easily. Moreover, they failed to buy back up Indian pacers which can hurt them as well. It is a surprise that they spent a fortune on Christian while not choosing to bid for Sakaria – who could have been that backup Indian pacer - after INR 1.1 crore.
With only three spots to fill, SRH were in the auction for window shopping. That is what they did. The two players they engaged in a bidding war for were Gowtham and Adam Milne. But they pulled out soon. They filled one of the three spots with Jagadeesha Suchith who is an excellent fielder if not anything else.
SRH completed the Afghan troika after getting Mujeeb Ur Rahman at his base price. The third addition was Kedar Jadhav.
Like KKR, the franchise from Delhi did not make an addition to alter their first XI. In a team filled with top-order batsmen, DC made a surprising move to bid for and get Steve Smith. What followed was a slurry of budget picks at their base price that included a back-up keeper in Vishnu Vinod, another SMAT star left-arm pacer Lukman Meriwala, a cover for Ishant Sharma in Umesh Yadav.
DC continued to surprise by spending INR 5.25 crore on Tom Curran. But it was the day for pace bowling all-rounders. They did well to snap Sam Billings at his base price towards the end. He is a decent cover for Shimron Hetmyer. They also bid for Jamieson and Richardson but could not carry on.
All MI needed to do in the auction was to find some overseas pacers. The managed to get two in Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Milne. Coulter-Nile was already part of their setup in the last season. But, both of them are injury prone and MI will wish they stay fit.
In addition to them, MI bought James Neesham and Piyush Chawla as covers. There was also a surprise buy in the young South African fast bowling all-rounder Marco Jansen. Though he is an unknown commodity, knowing MI’s scouting prowess he might be the next big thing.