O Captain, Where Art Thou?

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01 Dec 2021 | 12:20 AM
authorSamarnath Soory

O Captain, Where Art Thou?

New retention policy for the IPL 2022 and some surprising releases has thrown up interesting probabilities for the auction

The 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League has been a transformative year for franchise cricket’s top dog. Harsh lessons were learned while dealing with the limitations of the pandemic and ensuring the safety and health of the ones involved. Bubble breaches, helter-skelter rescheduling and relocating to another country were a first-time, but ample financial resources and co-operation from the United Arab Emirates balanced the swaying Zenga block of uncertainty. Amid the chaos, most teams breathed easy when the action kicked off thanks to a settled leadership group and confirmed attendance within the squad.

The 2022 edition took away that comfort from the franchises as the 15th edition will have two new franchises from Ahmedabad and Lucknow competing for a large pool of players in the mega auction, many of whom were reluctantly let go by their franchises. Kolkata Knights Riders released captain Eoin Morgan while Delhi Capitals had to let go former captains, Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer. 

David Warner’s exit from Sunrisers Hyderabad was evident from the moment he was booted off captaincy and shown a place on the bench in a miserable season, while Rashid Khan surprisingly chose to go under the hammer after the franchise chose Kane Williamson as their first pick for a hefty sum of Rs 14 crore.

However, KL Rahul’s decision to put himself up for the auction has left a void within Punjab Kings. The franchise were not pleased by their skipper’s exit as the team’s head coach Anil Kumble said explained the situation.

“Obviously, we wanted to retain KL Rahul and it was our plan to build for the future when we signed him three years ago. But he chose to go into the auction and we respect that. It's a player's prerogative,” the former leg-spinner said.

Rahul had been the team’s best batter by a mile in the last three years, as he amassed 2,548 runs from 55 matches at an average of 56.62. Losing his services after a promising 2021 where they almost reached the play-offs explains the management’s displeasure.

The onus will now be on his Karnataka and India teammate Mayank Agarwal, who has only captained a team once in his entire career. Mayank was the perfect foil for Rahul at the top of the order in IPL 2021 with 441 runs from 14 matches and is an experienced campaigner in the side. Kumble’s vision of him as a ‘potential leader’ hinted why they made the right-hander their top pick on the retention list.

In Aaron Finch, who went unsold in the 2021 auction, Punjab can find the perfect replacement for Rahul in terms of leadership and the opening slot. Finch has been often written off in the shortest format, despite possessing a strike of over 140 and scoring close to 10,000 T20 runs. After leading Australia to their maiden T20 World Cup title in November, Punjab can look at securing Finch’s services in the mega auction.

The Australian skipper will also be fancied by KKR who had to let go Eoin Morgan along with his predecessor Dinesh Karthik and opener Shubman Gill, who was touted as the future captain of the side. However, making an overseas player the captain comes with baggage. KKR were left vulnerable in the middle order due to Morgan’s poor run of form and were left with only one overseas spot with Andre Russell and Sunil Narine taking up the allrounder slots.

Shreyas Iyer, Ravichandran Ashwin and Shikhar Dhawan, who have been released by DC are potential candidates for the captain’s role at KKR and Royal Challengers Bangalore who are also looking for a new skipper after Virat Kohli stepped down from the role after 10 years.

Ashwin has enough experience as a strike bowler and as a captain to fit the role at both the teams, as he had led Tamil Nadu and Kings XI Punjab in 34 T20s winning 16 of them. The off-spinner has the tactical nous and ambition to lead an IPL side, something which the franchises çould use to groom a future captain.

Iyer, on the other hand, will come into the auction with a hefty price tag with age on his side and experience at the top level. The Mumbaikar has looked hungry ever since he returned to action from a lengthy injury layoff, scoring 175 from eight matches in the IPL 2021 second leg and scores of 105 and 65 on his Test debut against New Zealand. With Rishabh Pant firmly established as DC’s captain, Iyer will look for a fresh challenge as he carries the experience of leading DC in 45 matches.

Any franchise will be foolish to miss out on Shikhar Dhawan, who has been consistently vying for the Orange Cap over the past five editions. He was a big reason behind DC’s flying starts in the last season and has captained 45 T20s at state, franchise and international level with tremendous success, something which teams would look for during the auction.

Franchise owners have bemoaned the new retention policy which saw some of their long-term investments being released into the player pool which was designed to provide the two new franchises a few early picks before the draft.

The IPL’s expansion coinciding with several leadership changes within the current teams has certainly made the upcoming auction the most interesting event in the tournament’s history. 

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Indian Premier League, 2022Kolkata Knight RidersRoyal Challengers Bangalore

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