IPL auction 2016: The unheard and the untested, who stole the show

IPL auction 2016: The unheard and the untested, who stole the show

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Martin Guptill must have walked out on to the pitch at Wellington on Saturday anticipating a bidding war happening over him, 11,000kms away in Bengaluru. After playing 57 T20s for New Zealand with a batting average of 34.7 and a strike rate of 129.64, the No.5 T20 batsman in the world had good reason to think so. But by the time he returned to the pavilion, the 29-year old Kiwi had been put up twice on the auction table and was met with an eerie silence to go unsold both times. His base price of Rs.50 lakhs found no takers while, M Ashwin, Nathu Singh, and Deepak Hooda collectively bagged Rs. 11.9 crores. Not many of us can claim to recall more than one of those names.

Unlike the past auctions, where a Yuvraj Singh or Glenn Maxwell hogged the limelight, this time around it was the literal unknowns. Pawan Negi, the left-arm spinner from Delhi, definitely stands out of the uncapped players pack after fetching a whopping Rs. 8.5 crore paycheck from the Delhi Daredevils (DD). Trying to understand the logic behind the cash spree is a futile exercise, but what exactly DD saw in Negi to throw their biggest bid at the 23-year old youngster shall remain to be seen.

Pawan Negi is not a newcomer to the IPL; in fact he made his debut in the 2012 season for Delhi Daredevils and picked up seven wickets off eight matches at an impressive economy rate of 6.90. But IPL has a notoriously short memory, and when the 2013 season came along, the youngster was reduced to a single appearance and was packed off to CSK by 2014. He remained wicket-less in the 2014 season, but with Dhoni opting to play three spinners in the 2015 season, the left-armer became the third choice at CSK behind Ashwin and Jadeja. The 23-year old had an average season picking six wickets off 10 matches and scoring 116 runs.

The left-armer also had a horror show last season against Mumbai Indians in one of the games conceding 25 runs in the 19th over to cost his team the match. So again, what prompted the franchisees to go heavy on a player, who hasn’t had any considerable success in his career of 21 IPL matches?

The prime reason for the bidding war around Negi can be attributed to a recency effect behind his selection to the Indian team for the World cup T20. He is also a part of the Indian squad for the three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka, which starts next week. But, Negi carved his path to the squad after picking 16 wickets in nine matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and six wickets in seven matches in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy and three off two in the Deodhar trophy. All these look good, but nothing to warrant an 8.5 crore paycheck. It implies that DD spent their highest bid on a youngster with potential. If there is one thing we have learned from IPL, then it is that obese paychecks do not guarantee success – ask Yuvraj Singh.

Others like M Ashwin (Rs. 4.5 crore), Deepak Hooda (Rs. 4.2 crore), Nathu Singh (Rs. 3.2 crore), Krunal Pandya (Rs. 2 crore), Rishabh Pant (Rs. 1.9 crore), Ankit Rajpoot (Rs. 1.5 crore), Kishore Kamath (Rs. 1.4 crores) and Eklavya Dwivedi (Rs. 1 crore) fetched a higher pay-check than some international stars.

The first glimpses of the fascination for the unknown came up in the auction last year. When KC Cariappa bagged a Rs. 2.4 crore bid at the 2015 auction, 24 times his base price, nobody had a clue about who he was. Even Google searches remained unanswered. But as the season turned out, Cariappa’s Kolkata Knight Riders career lasted just 12 balls after he went for 28 runs in those two overs and bagged one wicket. In yesterday’s auction, he went for Rs. 80 lakhs to Kings XI Punjab.

The KC Cariappa of this year was M Ashwin. The leg-spinner’s performance of 10 wickets at an economy rate of 5.52 in six Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy matches helped him earn nine times the base price of Pragyan Ojha, who has taken 89 wickets in 92 IPL matches, and yet went unsold. The 25-year old from Tamil Nadu is no new kid on the block; he made his debut in November 2012 against Odisha in a Ranji Trophy match. However, he had to come back to the domestic circuit in the Vijay Hazare trophy 2015/16 after a gap of three years and turned things in his favour with some good performances. Whether it was his stint with the Chennai Super Kings as net bowler or the good word put by Tamil Nadu captain R Ashwin, Murugan got the shock of his life when he saw the 4.5 crore bid.

(Also Read: From IPL to PWL: A country of Leagues)

Another youngster, who got a big paycheck with recent performances, was Kishore Kamath. The 21-year old leg-spinner and handy batsman from Dharwad in Karnataka caught the eye of the scouts after his performances in the Karnataka Premier League. A trial with the Mumbai Indians could also have helped him fetch an amount that was 14 times his base price of Rs 10 lakhs. Whether, the young gun would even get a game in the IPL to showcase his skills remains a bigger question than his potential.

The best time to perform is obviously before the IPL auction, and that was exactly what Rishabh Pant did. The Delhi boy scored an 18-ball record-breaking fifty in the 2016 U-19 World Cup match against Nepal just five days before the auction to earn a Rs. 1.9 crore bid from Delhi Daredevils – an amount that was more than 6 times the bid received for the India U-19 captain Ishan Kishan, who is also a left-hander and wicketkeeper. The 18-year old from Delhi will be fourth wicketkeeper in the DD squad after Quinton de Kock, Sanju Samson and Sam Billings, which will significantly reduce his time on the pitch. None of the uncapped players, who fetched the big bids in the auction yesterday, have outstanding records in the domestic circuit, and many of them are yet to turn out for their state in a first class match.

One thing, which connects them all, however, is the word “potential.” Be it extensive scouting by the franchises or the fascination for the unknown, a lot of newbies have taken the centre stage after the auction.

During all the bidding for the potential  stars, Pragyan Ojha, Manoj Tiwary, Vijay Zol, Manvinder Bisla, Ashok Menaria and a lot of others, also went unsold yesterday, who were the “potential” players a few years ago.

Will all of them deliver justice to their paychecks? For that we have to wait until April, when all these players arrive on our television sets to show off their skills. M Ashwin could be a find for the Rising Pune Supergiants or he could become the KC Cariappa of next season and slide away from the limelight, we hope it is not the latter

(Also Read: Indian Premier League Auction 2016)

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