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Starc and Cummins’ 45 crore payday proves reputation remains king in IPL

Last updated on 20 Dec 2023 | 12:56 PM
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Starc and Cummins’ 45 crore payday proves reputation remains king in IPL

Neither Cummins nor Starc merited getting anywhere close to 20 crore, but that’s the nature of the beast that is the IPL auction

Mitchell Starc - 24.75 crore

Pat Cummins - 20.50 crore 

Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) broke the bank for Cummins first by paying 20.50 cr, and then, just minutes later, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) SHATTERED that record by shelling out 24.75 cr — nearly 80% of their available purse on the day — for Starc. 

The aforementioned purchases have not just broken the internet but have shaken the entire cricketing world. For all we know, these two buys may have also changed the landscape of IPL auctions forever.

Unquestionably, both KKR & SRH severely overpaid to land their desired targets. But stuff like that is a commonality in mini auctions, where high demand + low supply leads to unfathomable deals due to multiple franchises entering the auction with a bloated purse.

However, it is worth looking into a different question altogether. Which is: does reputation trump everything else in a competition like the IPL? Especially when it comes to marquee overseas picks?

Firstly, let’s make something clear. Unless a player is the clear-cut best in the business like Jasprit Bumrah, peak AB de Villiers or prime Chris Gayle (where there is daylight between them and the second-best player), they’re not worth blowing 80% of the available purse on. 

But you can sort of understand where KKR and SRH came from. These were ‘their’ targets and they wanted to acquire them at any cost. 

The really interesting bit here is how it was Cummins and Starc that not one, not two, but SIX different franchises zeroed in on as their primary target (in terms of overseas pacers). 

Let us first look at the case of Starc, who in his first appearance in an IPL auction since 2018, ended up shattering records.

Forget playing IPL regularly, Starc no longer even plays T20 cricket on a frequent basis. 

Since 2017, Starc has played all of 36 T20 matches. 36, THAT’S ALL. That is an average of 5.14 T20s per year. Each of these 36 games have come for Australia, with him playing a grand total of zero franchise cricket during the previous seven years.

For context, in the same time frame, Rabada & Bumrah, two of his contemporaries who are also all-format players, have played 148 & 130 T20s respectively. 

So if a guy who has played no franchise cricket in the past seven years is bagging a deal of INR 24.75 crore, you’d think he’d be tearing apart the international scene, being the runaway best pacer in the format.

However, that is far from the case. 

Across his last 30 T20Is, from the start of 2020, Starc has averaged just 1.13 wickets per match while having an economy of 8.5. In this period, he’s leaked runs at an ER of 10.7 at the death.   

He’s not shown up in World Cups either. Across the last two T20 World Cups, Starc has taken just 12 wickets in 10 games while maintaining an ER of 9.00. In these two mega events, he had an ER of 12.00 (144 runs conceded in 12 overs) at the death.

Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, justifies the price KKR paid (and GT were willing to pay) to Starc. 

But that he destroyed the all-time record anyway while being semi-retired in T20s, despite there being much better options in the market (strictly statistically speaking) should tell you the power of reputation. 

And the fact that all franchises who needed a gun overseas seamer were eyeing Starc should tell you that most franchises, despite having all kinds of data at their disposal, still value the weight the name and the experience of the player carries, over other things.

Prior to the auction, many predicted Gerald Coetzee to be one of the hottest picks but the 23-year-old couldn’t even bag 25% of what Starc managed, despite being in far better form than the left-armer.

Cummins’ case is not as extreme as Starc, but he is not someone who you’d call a ‘gun T20 bowler’. T20 is Cummins’ least-favorite format, and outside having a very good cutter, there are not any special T20-specific skills he possesses as a bowler. Not something that makes him worth more than 10 crore anyway. He has the ability to tonk sixes on a regular basis, sure, but it’s not his batting that earned him the big bucks.

Cummins is also someone that’s recently struggled as a bowler in the IPL. In the last edition he played, in 2022, he took seven wickets at an economy of 10.69. 

Yet, despite having played only 11 T20s since IPL 2022 and not really faring well in those games (11 wickets @ 8.5 E.R), the Australian skipper bagged a 20.50 crore contract on Tuesday.

It was not because he was the second-best pacer available in the market. It was not because of form. Perhaps his leadership qualities played a part, but that Cummins landed a 20.50 crore deal was solely down to his reputation (and experience) and also the cross-format success he’s enjoyed of late. 

Ultimately, both Cummins and Starc’s purchases have reiterated the fact that, when it comes to the IPL, reputation still remains the king.

The same has been proven time and again, whether it be Ben Stokes’ 16.25 cr pick last year, Lockie Ferguson and Shardul Thakur’s 10+ cr purchase in 2022 or Kyle Jamieson’s 15 cr buy in 2021.

Is it fair? Does the IPL auction actually reward excellence? That's a discourse for another day.

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