If you are a part of the herd who likes the drama and intrigue of an auction, you probably would have heard of a certain VIVO Indian Premier League (IPL) and the two-day player auctions that were held a week ago. If you followed these auctions, you would have noticed the increasing brouhaha revolving around the auction strategy of Kings XI Punjab, and how they tried to bid for most of the available players. But how much truth lies in all the chatter and how much of it is just banter?
Of the 353 times players were brought up for bidding (including the re-calls), KXIP raised the paddle for a total of 56 players, of which they landed 21. That’s a figure of 15.86% of players that KXIP tried signing and as everyone knows Punjabiyon de bade dil mein sabke liye jagah hoti hai.
Rahul – Ab toh pakka naam suna hoga!
The signing of Indian batsman, KL Rahul for a sum of INR 11 crores was a huge talking point to emerge from the auction room, becoming the second-most expensive Indian player to go under the hammer this year.
A proven campaigner especially in the T20 domain, Rahul has always scored consistent runs at a fair clip in the shorter format of the game. His average of 33.5 and a strike rate of almost 130 helps drive this very point home. The fact that he can float in the batting line-up – from playing an all-out ballistic role as an opener, to steadying the ship in the middle order – along with donning the gloves behind the stumps is testimony to the value that he went for in a league with heavy emphasis on domestic players. The KXIP management would be delighted to land a player of such calibre and quality, and would have done a quiet little bhangra in their heads at the time!
Through the long rigmarole of auctions, there are bound to be close shaves which make you either go haiyo rabba or breathe a sigh of relief. The KXIP table had its own share of these emotions, with the RTM card used against them FIVE TIMES!
Their bidding war for Jaydev Unadkat, too, was a nerve-racking moment, and maybe the thrill and drama of the auction saw the Kings stretch their purses a bit too much (emotions mein beh gaye). But in the end, Rajasthan Royals walked away with the pacer, leaving KXIP with sufficient funds to get some more great players in.
This Jaydev Unadkat bidding has to be the most dramatic one so far. Just when KXIP thought they had him at ₹11cr, in comes RR and everybody bursts into a cheer. Perfect buy for RR, totally worth it ! #IPLAuction— Prashant Kanaujia (@prashant_k18) January 28, 2018
Waiting game da kamaal!
While people were quick to catch on to the times KXIP went big, the Kings also managed to sneak in some wise purchases without coming under the radar. The team at the end of Day 1 of the auctions seemed to lack fast bowlers and that extra match-winning batsman, but come Day 2, the second phase of the King’s strategy came into play. With acquisitions like Mohit Sharma, Barinder Sran and Manoj Tiwary, the KXIP squad got more flesh on the bone.
Aussie hat-trick hero Andrew Tye was a prime target, and his acquisition for INR 7.2 crores was a huge shot in the arm of the Kings’ pace attack. The surprise of the day, though, came when veteran T20 specialist, Chris Gayle was picked up to join the pride at his base price! The fact that the KXIP think tank waited for the chance to pounce, was testimony to the fact that everything was part of a well-thought plan with an emphasis on flexibility.
Dil ka khel, khela dimaag se
There were many instances in the auctions where the KXIP think tank could have fallen into the trap of giving in to emotional decisions and possibly stumbled along the way. Choosing not to use the RTM card for someone like Glenn Maxwell, for example, saved the side a lot of big bucks, which were then invested wisely in other areas. Going all-out for Sandeep Sharma after matching the bid for Mohit Sharma, too, might have been straying on the other side of caution. Another tough decision which had to be taken was not opting to go for a KXIP fan favourite in Shaun Marsh towards the end of the whole process keeping the long term vision for the team in mind.
However, they did manage to be on the same page as their fans on a number of other decisions, such as bringing back the likes of Yuvraj Singh, David Miller and Marcus Stoinis, who have done well for the franchise in the past – clearly a move to appeal to both, the emotional and strategic side of things.
All in all, the auction showing by KXIP was a scrumptious mix of identifying the targets to go berserk for, and also showing restraint when the situation so demanded. It showed a side which was ready to be adaptive, and not afraid of making some unabashedly tough calls. While there was extravagance on one hand, there were many shrewd purchases on the other.
Now, with a delightful blend of youth and experience in the squad, it’s on to the season to see the new pride of the sher-e-Punjab in action for the first time.