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IPL 2018 player auction: Battle-hardened 35-plus warriors in demand for marquee event

The Indian Premier League hugely values its vintage performers, with a small band of 35-plus players eager to show where they stand in the player auction.

cricket Updated: Jan 26, 2018 09:50 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
IPL Auction,IPL Auction 2018,Indian Premier League
Gautam Gambhir is working hard on his fitness and he will be one of the major buys in the 2018 Indian Premier League auction. (HT Photo)

Chris Lynn provided a vignette of the modern package of robust cricket that Indian Premier League is, with his stunning catch to dismiss AB de Villiers in 2014.

The Aussie, body arced back and contorted somehow landed inside the rope with ball in hand, as Kolkata Knight Riders beat Royal Challengers Bangalore on way to their second title.

But IPL has also hugely valued its vintage performers. And a small band of 35-plus players will be keen to show where they stand in the player auction at the weekend.

Chris Gayle, 38, is well past a hurried pick-and-throw or a quick single, happy to remain a token presence in the slip cordon and preserve his hamstrings. His USP is to stand and deliver with the bat.

Delhi stalwart Gautam Gambhir led Kolkata Knight Riders since 2011, delivering titles in 2012 and 2014. While Gayle struggled with fitness issues last season, Gambhir, 36, attributes his prolific 2017 season — KKR came third — to his fitness regimen.

Kolkata Knight Riders run ends

The KKR management decided not to retain him, but Gambhir said “everything happened amicably”. He sees the auction as “unpredictable, things can happen, difficult to judge,” the left-handed batsman looks ahead.

Gautam Gambhir is playing domestic cricket to prove his fitness. (HT Photo)

Gambhir swears by playing domestic cricket to get into rhythm, rather than playing a few games with the IPL auction in mind. “It is about doing well consistently, it is an international event. I truly believe in going into it with runs under the belt,” he said.

For the last four years, he has hired personal trainers. What he calls a fresh challenge, Gambhir now trains under Bosnian Vesna Pericevic Jacob, who is a Pilates expert based in Delhi.

Talk of fitness and the Yo-Yo test, the mantra for India players, is not far away. Gambhir took the test twice, and fared well the last time, before the Mumbai Test against England in late 2016.

Chris Gayle, Gautam Gambhir and several 35-plus veterans are expected to fetch big money in the auctions. (HT Photo)

“It’s about running consistently. The first time, I didn’t know how to pace it, but the second time it was easier,” he said. Though weights are still in, Pilates training puts less strain on the body while focusing on the core and strengthening muscles most used while playing.

The focus is on agility as well as the toning of ankles and glutes, said Vesna. “Gautam is incredibly hard-working. The idea is to bring down the recovery time. He is now in the best shape he has been. We have also worked on generating power, without the bulking up that can slow you down.”

Which team does he prefer next? A return home to Delhi Daredevils? Gambhir feels auction dynamics alone will tell.

Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson has found some momentum, scoring 331 runs in 10 games for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League. Compatriot Johnson will pin hopes on his shock value in the IPL, though he has been impressive.

In nine games for Perth Scorchers in BBL, he has bowled a full quota of overs each game, at an impressive economy rate of 5.86.

First Published: Jan 26, 2018 09:46 IST