Even if one were to guess the top two buys at the IPL 2024 auction, the likelihood of accurately predicting the winning bids would have been quite slim.
There was unprecedented windfall for Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, key figures in Australia’s successful year with victories in the ODI World Cup and the World Test Championship. With 77 openings available and 332 players in the mix, franchises swiftly pursued their desired picks in the initial five rounds.
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Here’s a breakdown: Of the Rs 230.45 crore spent on 72 players — the most for a mini-auction and the fourth-most since 2013 — a staggering 65.13 per cent (Rs 150.10 crore) was splurged on 25 players from the first 36 available in the pool.
The intense and assertive bidding concluded with record-breaking numbers and astonishing sales at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai. The auction strategies and choices boiled down to a significant gap in experience and skills between the first few sets of players and the rest.
After securing the top-tier players, a portion of the funds was allocated to emerging Indian talents, who have showcased their abilities, albeit somewhat unnoticed, in focused scouting sessions and state T20 leagues over the past year.
The 10 million men
Starc: The Australian left-arm quick had limited appearances in just two of the previous 16 IPL seasons, in 2014 and 2015. Due to his unwavering commitment to his national team and a few injuries, Starc was not part of the IPL for the past eight years. But the upcoming T20 World Cup in June 2024 has seemingly made the T20 league a crucial part of his preparation.
In a remarkable comeback, the leading Australian seamer in T20Is was signed by the Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs 24.75 crore, marking the highest-ever bid in the tournament’s 17-year history. This amount was over 2.6 times the price KKR paid for him in 2018 (Rs 9.40 crore) before an injury disrupted their previous association. With initial interest from the Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals, Starc’s bidding price soared from a base of Rs 2 crore to Rs 10 crore, and eventually, KKR secured the landmark deal, surpassing even the Gujarat Titans’ quarter-billion bid.
Cummins: Australia’s captain is quite close to ‘completing’ cricket. With ODI World Cup and WTC titles and an Ashes retention under his belt in the last six months, Cummins went further up on the sport’s hot property charts with the maiden Rs 20 crore bid before compatriot Starc overhauled him. The IPL inventory says that he can tonk Jasprit Bumrah for four sixes in an over, hit one of the quickest fifties in 14 balls, and is a tad mercurial with the ball but a nagging presence for batters. Combined with a coalescence of his leadership and cricketing nous, Cummins received intense bidding from three title-winning IPL sides: MI, Chennai Super Kings, SunRisers Hyderabad, and Royal Challengers Bangalore. SRH’s bidding began at the Rs 8 crore mark, four times his base price, before catapulting Cummins onto uncharted shores at Rs 20.5 crore.
Daryl Mitchell: Yet to establish his spot as a true-blue T20I all-rounder, Daryl Mitchell received a whopping Rs 14 crore contract from CSK. Mitchell was among the most successful batters (552 runs) in the recent ODI World Cup, including two hundreds against host India. While at it, the 32-year-old also displayed a penchant for breaking down spin attacks and waging lone battles, a favourite trait in MS Dhoni-territory. “In Chepauk, we can slide him into a role. He fits in nicely,” said fellow Kiwi and CSK head coach Stephen Fleming about Mitchell.
Harshal Patel: While he may have fallen off the national selectors’ radar, Harshal continued to attract interest at the auction table. Although slated under the all-rounder tag, Harshal’s expertise in bowling the middle and death overs places him in a rare bracket among Indian bowlers. Punjab Kings roped in Harshal for Rs 11.75 crore after fending off the Lucknow Super Giants and the Gujarat Titans.
Alzarri Joseph: In the auction’s major surprise, West Indies seamer Alzarri Joseph landed a spectacular Rs 11.50 crore bid from RCB, with four other teams in contention to sign him. His figures of 6/12 — the best in IPL history — came on his debut four years ago. The Antiguan has only played 18 more games since, taking 14 wickets. While he will contribute with his hit-the-deck style at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, Joseph’s standing as a dependable choice remains uncertain.
Spencer Johnson: Fast on the rise in the Australian circuit, left-arm quick Johnson has only played 20 T20s. He also suffered a belting in his solitary ODI appearance (0/61) against India in September. However, that did not deter a late surge for the 28-year-old, who landed his maiden IPL contract with GT at Rs 10 crore, 20 times his base price of Rs 50 lakh.
The auction also threw in potentially life-changing deals for uncapped Indians. After impressive exploits in the state T20 league and age-group cricket, Uttar Pradesh batter Sameer Rizvi’s CSK stocks increased from a Rs 20 lakh base price to Rs 8.40 crore. Following the Dhoni fad in Jharkhand, wicket-keeper batters Kumar Kushagra (Rs 7.20 crore to DC) and Robin Minz (Rs 3.60 crore to GT) bagged headline-worthy deals. Shahrukh Khan (7.4 crore, GT), Shubham Dubey (Rs 5.80 crore, Rajasthan Royals), M. Siddharth (Rs 2.40 crore, LSG), Sushant Mishra (Rs 2.2 crore, GT) and Sumit Kumar (Rs 1 crore, DC) were the other overnight uncapped crorepatis.
Teams that entered the auction with the largest purses left the arena with the least baggage. KKR shelled out Rs 31.35 crore for 11 players, while SRH splashed out Rs 30.80 crore to sign Cummins, Travis Head, Wanindu Hasaranga, and backup bowlers. CSK went all in to complete its quota of 25 players, spending Rs 30.4 crore. IPL 2023 runner-up GT used Rs 30.30 crore to add further variety in bowling and batting muscle.