A cricketers’ worth is not necessarily determined by his value at an Indian Premier League (IPL) auction. But when it comes to the annual player auction, it is the players with high price tags that steal the headlines.
Tuesday was no different in Dubai when two Australian pacers – Mitchell Starc (Rs. 24.75 crore, Kolkata Knight Riders) and Pat Cummins (Rs. 20.50 crore, Sunrisers Hyderabad) – earned the highest bids ever in the history of the IPL auction.
Not too many who occupied the 10 tables at the sprawling Coca-Cola Arena were surprised with the prices that literally hit through the roof. Kumar Sangakkara, the Rajasthan Royals director of cricket and head coach, was among them.
“We knew it would get breached but not by us,” Sangakkara said when asked whether he anticipated the 20-crore mark to be breached. “Mini auctions are notorious for that. A high purse and low supply players can go for that. It can happen and it did happen.”
The amount of money that was splurged on the duo may appear to be madness. But even in a dynamic scenario like a player auction, there was definitely a method to this madness. It’s not a coincidence that both Starc and Cummins are pacers. After all, “pace bowling” was the buzzword associated with expensive signings at the IPL auction.
Five pacers, including the Australian duo, fetched a sum of Rs. 10 crore or more. Five more took home more than Rs. 5 crore. And, the Rs. 4 crore barrier was breached by 14 pacers among the total of 72 players who were bought in the auction.
Perhaps it had something to do with the likelihood of the introduction of two bouncers being allowed in an over in IPL 2024. Daniel Vettori, the Sunrisers Hyderabad head coach, explained the rationale behind going big on Cummins.
“Obviously, the fast bowlers are targeted. There is only a select few that you can go for and obviously Pat’s been bowling so well lately. He obviously brings in an element of batting as well and and like in all these options, someone else desperately wants them as well,” Vettori said.
“That’s where you get pushed to that high number. And because our team is relatively settled and we had a good budget and the fact that we had already picked up Travis Head and (Wanindu) Hasaranga, we felt like we had covered most things that we wanted at the auction. So, we had the ability to spend that much.”
While Cummins was slotted in the second set, Starc’s name came up for bidding in the fourth set. Venky Mysore, the managing director cum chief executive officer of KKR, admitted that the fact that it lost out on acquiring Rovman Powell to Rajasthan Royals and Chris Woakes to Punjab Kings resulted in it having more than adequate purse to loosen its strings for Starc.
“It wasn’t like you came in with that mindset, but obviously was a preferred player from that skill set,” Mysore said.
“You know, it all sometimes works out. Initially we were not successful in some of the bids. Maybe that worked in our favour because we did end up having money to do this, otherwise we might not have been able to do it. So we are just thankful that we were able to have him on.”
Now that the values of cricketers have been sidelined and the post-auction trading window is virtually out of the equation, with only two teams having vacant slots, it is time to focus more on a player’s worth than his value.
PACERS AT THE PEAK
Mitchell Starc – Rs. 24.75 crore – KKR
Pat Cummins – Rs. 20.50 crore – SRH
Harshal Patel – Rs. 11.75 crore – PBKS
Alzarri Joseph – Rs. 11.50 crore – RCB
Spencer Johnson – Rs. 10 crore – GT
Shivam Mavi – Rs. 6.40 crore – LSG
Umesh Yadav – Rs. 5.80 crore – GT
Jhye Richardson – Rs. 5 crore – DC
Yash Dayal – Rs. 5 crore – RCB
Gerald Coetzee – Rs. 5 crore – MI
Nuwan Thushara – Rs. 4.80 crore – MI
Dilshan Madushanka – Rs. 4.60 crore – MI
Chris Woakes – Rs. 4.20 crore – PBKS
Shardul Thakur – Rs. 4 crore – CSK