In the 2018 IPL Auction, KKR dropped the paddle and allowed Suryakumar Yadav to move to the central part of the country - Mumbai. But what if they didn’t? What if Suryakumar Yadav was retained ahead of Robin Uthappa by KKR in the 2018 Auction?
Once again, it is 2018, the year that has the real opportunity to change fortunes for franchises and turn a dream into a reality. We are in Jaipur, in the month of December, eagerly awaiting how the franchises approach this auction amidst much halla-bol.
Uncapped batsman Suryakumar Yadav, the name certainly sprung upon a lot of bidders - Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals were all excited. Mumbai certainly upped the ante, beating Delhi and Kolkata in the race to secure the signature but there is still another step awaiting - the RTM.
KKR, having not used the RTM for Robin Uthappa, which came as a surprise, still have their shield of success remaining. They raise the paddle, raise the bar and the temperature, retaining Suryakumar Yadav for 7 crores. Meanwhile, Uthappa, who was released by the franchise, finds a new home in Mumbai, who shell out 6.4 crores for the batsman, after winning a four-way battle with Chennai, Delhi and Rajasthan.
Bangalore, who missed out on these batsmen, have a name on their list - Ishan Kishan. Having struggled in the wicketkeeping section in the 2017 edition, they have earmarked the Jharkhand keeper, whom they get for 6 crores, beating Mumbai, who ultimately had to give up on the left-hander. But all of these had a bigger impact and gave the other franchises a bigger purse to target their core players.
Chennai, who let go of Ravichandran Ashwin, in their pursuit of another off-spinner, snap up local boy Washington Sundar, with Harbhajan Singh finding a capital, which lands him in Delhi. A major reshuffle in the setups, which ultimately has the powers to turn their fortune and season around. Chennai kick off their season against Mumbai, who stumble to 20/2 in the first three overs before Robin Uthappa’s 60 leads them to 145 after 20 overs. In reply, CSK’s top-order, with the promotion to Washington Sundar, to maintain a left-right combination chase the total down in 18 overs, to go one up over their rivals.
Meanwhile, KKR pick up pace from last season, with a win over RCB, where both Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan steal the limelight for their respective sides. Delhi, on the other hand, manage to win against Punjab, on the back of their new recruit Harbhajan Singh’s splendid spell, picking up 3/15. With all teams happy, the season ultimately revolves around the larger theme of CSK and RR’s comeback.
While Mumbai and Uthappa form an unmissable partnership, KKR have found a hero at No.3 in Suryakumar. Ultimately, a 560-run season from the Mumbaikar propels Kolkata to a third-place finish at the end of the group stage, alongside Kuldeep Yadav. Meanwhile, Washington Sundar’s 24 wicket season for Chennai, alongside his 350-run tally at the top of the order, has landed the returning Kings in the second position, as Sunrisers end up on the top.
Come the playoffs, the script is well setup, Suryakumar Yadav-skippering KKR side against RR, who are on the back of a late scrap into the playoffs. In a one-way clash, Surya propels KKR to an easy win, with an unbeaten 68, including a famous celebration, where he channels his inner Cristiano Ronaldo, getting the thumbs-up from the owner, Shahrukh Khan. Chennai, on the other hand, come face to face against Sunrisers, led by a pumped-up David Warner.
However, on the night, Washington Sundar sets the sun straight, with a three-fer in the powerplay and an unbeaten 47 off 42 deliveries to give Chennai an easy win. In the final, it is the willy ol’ veteran MS Dhoni against the up and coming skipper Suryakumar, who leads KKR to yet another final against CSK. But this time, CSK thrash KKR and ensure that they avenge the bitter defeat of 2012. However, Surya’s run tally earns him the orange cap while a surprise figure in Washington earns the purple cap home.
Now comes the bigger picture, India’s tour to England, a year before the hyped-up 50-over World Cup. On the back of a brilliant season for Surya, the selectors are forced to pick the right-hander alongside Rishabh Pant, who smashed his way to selection. In the bowling department, Washington Sundar gets picked but an injury, unfortunately, rules him out, as Shardul Thakur is picked as his replacement.
Coming as a replacement, Thakur shows the duke-way picking up 6 crucial wickets in the series while Surya continues his stunning run, with 142 runs in the series while Pant, who marks his return to the squad, smashes 100 runs of his own, leading to India winning the series 2-1. However, the bigger picture, rather the biggest of them all - the Test series - is yet to begin, the nerves, yet to set.
India have a bigger headache - Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik behind the sticks? Trusting the youngster, India make a bold choice in the first two Tests, going with the youngster, who repays the trust with 60 runs across four innings. But he misses two stumpings and three catches while conceding 40 byes, which leads to the most obvious thing - drop. Pant gets axed and gets replaced with Karthik, the seasoned veteran.
But India have won the first Test, where Pant got them home but despite that his showing behind the sticks didn’t help the cause. On the other hand, the veteran makes full use of the opportunity, scoring a scintillating hundred alongside Hardik Pandya, who scores a 70. Together, they take India to a first innings score of 400, which leads India to a 250-run win over England. India are already one step ahead of the hosts but unfortunately, bad batting in the last Test forces a drawn series.
Come the 2019 IPL season, KKR have made their squad stronger, CSK have merely touched their squad while Mumbai go all-out for several stars to strengthen their squad. They sign English all-rounder Sam Curran and Lockie Ferguson. In the IPL season, it is evident why they did that, as Curran ends up doubling as a new-ball bowler and a power-hitter down the order. Ferguson, on the other hand, unfortunately, warms the bench, with Lasith Malinga taking up the mantle as the overseas pacer.
In a season of runs, wickets and golden performances, familiar figures rise up and make the leaderboards, with Suryakumar continuing to score runs like it was his breakfast, with a 600-run season. Washington, on the other hand, continues to pick up wickets for Chennai. But unfortunately for Bangalore, Ishan has a fall in form, getting replaced by youngster Devdutt Padikkal. Padikkal, who walks into the setup tears away the bowlers, with a 350-run season for the Bangalore side.
Yet, it boils down to familiar names - KKR, CSK, MI and SRH - in the playoffs. While KKR get the better off CSK this time around, MI manage an easy victory over SRH to setup a date. Local star Suryakumar returns home and MI are aiming for a fourth title win. While Mumbai bat first and put up 180 on the board, thanks to a stunning innings from Curran, Suryakumar makes light work of it with Russell leading the charge down the order, chasing the total in 18.4 overs.
KKR return as the champions, Suryakumar lifts the trophy as thousands watching it in the Eden Garden go gaga. He lifts the trophy, the fan-clubs go down on their knee for their new hero - their new Gautam Gambhir. However, the blessing comes later on, when the Indian squad gets announced for the West Indies tour that follows the World Cup.
One name that springs up a surprise and the other missing, a bigger one. Suryakumar, who made his debut in England, has been named as the first-choice No.4 batsman, replacing Manish Pandey in the T20I setup. And thus India seemingly believe that their troubles with that position has been done and dusted, at least in the shortest format.