IPL 2021: Big buys and a bang for the buck
- This time, for the likes of Chris Morris, Kyle Jamieson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson and Krishnappa Gowtham there will be no escaping the scrutiny. They go into IPL 2021 as the top five buys in the last auction.
One of the things we look forward to in every Indian Premier League (IPL) season is how cricketers with hefty price tags perform. While some justify the money splurged on them by franchises, there are others who leave teams feeling they have paid too much for too little.
This time, for the likes of Chris Morris, Kyle Jamieson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson and Krishnappa Gowtham there will be no escaping the scrutiny. They go into IPL 2021 as the top five buys in the last auction.
Rajasthan Royals paid ₹16.25 crore for Morris; Jamieson, the 6’8” New Zealand fast bowler, attracted a bid of ₹15 crore from Royal Challengers Bangalore and Maxwell was also lapped up by them for ₹14.25 crore. Punjab Kings have invested ₹14 crore on Australian fast bowler Jhye Richardson and Chennai Super Kings paid ₹9.25 crore for spinner Gowtham.
Why is it such an enormous challenge for these players to deliver? The kind of paycheck they have got means they will be expected to raise their game to the level of proven performers like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, AB de Villiers and Kagiso Rabada. Like these stars, be the X-factor and deliver results with great performances.
They must justify the price tag or else the attention can be suffocating. Maxwell has dealt with this kind of scrutiny ever since Mumbai Indians paid ₹5.3 crore to make him the top buy in the 2013 auction. Barring the 552 runs he aggregated in 2014 for Kings XI Punjab, the Aussie all-rounder has crossed 200 only once—310 in 2017.
In IPL 2020, playing for Kings XI in the UAE was a harrowing experience for him. Bought at the auction for ₹10.75 crore, he endured his worst IPL campaign in the last six seasons, scoring just 108 runs in 11 innings at an average of 15.43. He just couldn’t find his hitting range, failing to hit a single six from the 106 balls he faced.
Maxwell has not admitted the price tag affects him. An indicator that it does play on his mind though can be seen in his performances for Australia and BBL franchises. He came into IPL 2020 after a sterling show in white-ball cricket for Australia in England. And immediately after the poor IPL, he was in his elements again when he turned out for Australia. Maxwell scored at a strike-rate of 150 in the Australia-India T20I series, the first event after IPL.
The key for him will be how he starts this IPL. A slow start will add to the pressure with run-dollar comparisons coming in.
There will be even more scrutiny on Morris. The most expensive player in IPL auction history, the South African bowling all-rounder has been brought in by Rajasthan Royals to boost their bowling. The 33-year-old has fitness issues and doesn’t play much cricket outside of the T20 leagues. His last stint with RCB was hampered by injury and he was available only for nine matches, in which he took 11 wickets and scored 34 runs. While he has great skills with the ball, since 2017 Morris has never managed to get through a full IPL season.
Ahead of the tournament, Morris said he can handle the price tag. “It’s natural to have a little bit of added pressure when something like that has happened (top buy of IPL). I would be lying if I said there wasn't any pressure. But fortunately enough, in the past I have come in with quite a big price tag on my head,” he said. “You got to perform on the field, no matter what your price tag is. There is a little bit of added pressure, but the pressure you get from a price tag doesn't affect you on a cricket field at the end of the day,” he said in a press conference.
JOURNEYMAN TO TOP BUY
It can be an even bigger challenge when a journeyman in domestic cricket is thrust into the limelight. It has more to do with the dynamics of auction than the players’ true worth as various franchises enter a bidding war and the price escalates. Among the Indian players, this season the limelight is on Gowtham, who finds himself in the situation Pawan Negi and Jaydev Unadkat were once in.
Gowtham is versatile and can bowl during any stage of the game, with the new ball or during death overs. He can be effective with the bat as well. But his price tag means, he will constantly be under the spotlight. He does thrive under pressure, but even the most strong-willed have been weighed down by the price tag. Besides, Chennai Super Kings being forced to play all matches away from spin-friendly MA Chidambaram Stadium may not help Gowtham or England all-rounder Moeen Ali.
Gowtham though can take a cue from Unadkat, who was weighed down by the tag. The left-arm pacer’s value in T20 cricket shot up after he took 24 wickets at an economy rate of 7.02 from 12 matches, playing for Rising Pune Supergiants in 2017. In January that year, when Rajasthan Royals bought him for ₹11.5 crore, he became the most expensive Indian player in that auction. The result: In 2018, in 15 matches for RR, he took 11 wickets at an economy of 9.65.
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In an interview to Cricinfo, Unadkat spoke about the pressure of being seen as a failed investment even before the halfway stage of IPL 2018. “I knew that if I did not perform well, people would say money did this, money did that. I was told IPL money comes with a lot of burden, expectations, so this was on my mind. I wanted to fight it, to ensure it’s not actually a burden, that the money factor doesn't really affect you if you are aware of it. After a couple of years, I can say that there were instances where I did feel the burden,” said Unadkat.
Pawan Negi’s problem was that the left-arm spinner’s price shot up after he delivered at CSK as Dhoni, known as a spinner’s captain, got the best out of him. Ahead of the IPL 2016, he made headlines after the Delhi franchise bought him for a whopping ₹8.5 crore. But in the eight matches he played, he took one wicket and had an expensive economy rate of 9.33.
The advantage Gowtham has is he has taken the opposite route. He will play under Dhoni this time. “I don't feel any pressure of expectations playing for a champion side like CSK. It’s dream come true for me to be playing under Mahi bhai,” the off-spinner said.
Franchises who have splurged money this season see specific roles for their top buys and feel they have got the right players.
Morris is good with the new ball and in the death overs. There will be added pressure on him with Jofra Archer missing the initial part of IPL due to injury. Morris can also hit sixes coming down the order.
Likewise, the second biggest buy Jamieson is an unknown quantity as he hasn't played much outside New Zealand. But RCB have spent ₹15 crore on him to bolster their overseas bowling department. Jamieson has done well in Tests, and how he does in the shortest format remains to be seen.
RCB’s director of cricket, Mike Hesson, the former New Zealand coach, feels the bounce Jamieson can extract due to his height will be useful. “Certain bowlers thrive in certain conditions. There will be some grounds where the ball will swing and bounce, and in those instances, Jamieson will be deadly in terms of what he can do. Once again, it is a complement of skills in terms of the balance we require on certain days. He is a power-hitter with the bat... That said, we won’t rely on one player… Putting out a highly competitive XI will be the key,” said the RCB boss.
Hesson feels Maxwell is a perfect fit as he can accelerate, which they struggle to do once AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli are out. “He is a fantastic player. We want some X-factor players...especially through the middle overs, and having high-impact cricketers like Maxwell adds to the value that an AB de Villiers brings, and potentially at the back end as well.
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“On his day, he (Maxwell) can turn the game on its head. We need to use him in a space where we can maximise his skills... He is already clear about his role in the team, but spending some time with people he is going to be batting with will help him understand his role implicitly... Also, from a bowling point of view, he adds some good skills, and he is an amazing fielder as well...” said Hesson.
CSK’S SPIN FOCUS
CSK have spent ₹16.25 crore to bring off-spinning all-rounders Gowtham ( ₹9.25 crore) and Moeen Ali ( ₹7 crore). Dhoni likes to have spinners on his roster. Both can be seen as replacements for Harbhajan Singh. Besides them, he has Mitchell Santner, Ravindra Jadeja, Karn Sharma, R Sai Kishore and Imran Tahir.
Moeen is a more conventional off-spinner and a handy lower-middle order batsman, who balances the need for bowling flexibility and batting depth.
PUNJAB’S PACE ADDITIONS
Punjab Kings have gone the other way, adding a couple of Australian quickies in Richardson ( ₹14 crore) and Riley Meredith ( ₹8 crore). Both can crank it up, bowl consistently over 140kph. This is an area Kings struggled in last season with their overseas quicks failing.
Richardson, after undergoing a couple of shoulder surgeries, is back in his pomp; he was the top wicket-taker in BBL. Like Morris, he can bowl at any stage of the match and is handy with the bat as well. Meredith's biggest strength is his ability to swing the ball at high speeds with the new ball.
“He’s (Richardson) been magnificent for us. He bowls all the tough overs. He bowls up front, he's bowling in every power surge and he's often got one at the death as well. Not only is he the leading wicket-taker, but I think he's also got one of the better economy rates in the competition,” his Perth Scorchers coach Adam Voges said.
As a batsman or bowler, they are expected to be the impact players, the game-changers. Dealing with the pressure of expectations will be the challenge. Some players will thrive, some will buckle.
TOP BUYS IN 2021
Chris Morris ₹16.25 crore
Kyle Jamieson ₹15 crore
Glenn Maxwell ₹14.25 crore
Jhye Richardson ₹14 crore
Krishnappa Gowtham ₹9.25 crore
A look at how the top picks in the auctions have fared:
2008 MS Dhoni ₹6cr CSK
414 runs in 14 innings at a strike rate of 133.54. More importantly, CSK made a lifetime investment
2009 Andrew Flintoff ₹7.5cr CSK
Played only three matches before suffering knee injury
2009 Kevin Pietersen ₹7.5cr RCB
He was the captain for the South Africa edition. Scored just 93 runs in six matches before leaving for international duty
2010 Kieron Pollard ₹3.42cr MI
Scored 273 runs in 14 innings at a strike rate of 185.71. Most of the runs came in the death overs. Also took 15 wickets
2010 Shane Bond ₹3.42cr KKR
Took nine wickets in eight matches.
2011 Gautam Gambhir ₹11.04cr KKR
Scored 378 runs in 15 matches, but it was another investment made looking at the future and he delivered two titles as skipper.
2012 Ravindra Jadeja ₹9.27cr CSK
Scored 191 runs in 14 innings and took 12 wickets
2013 Glenn Maxwell ₹5.3cr MI
Featured in just three matches scoring 36 runs
2014 Yuvraj Singh ₹14cr RCB
Didn't set the tournament on fire, scoring 376 run in 14 matches. Took five wickets.
2015 Yuvraj Singh ₹16cr DD
Struggled to get going, scoring just 248 runs in 14 matches. Took one wicket
2016 Shane Watson ₹9.5cr RCB
Was the third-highest wicket taker with 20 wickets but scored just 179 runs in 15 innings at an average of 13.76.
2017 Ben Stokes ₹14.5cr RPS
Scored 316 runs in 11 innings at strike rate of 142. Also took 12 wickets at an ER of 7.18
2018 Ben Stokes ₹12.5cr RR
Performance dipped. Managed just 196 in 13 innings and took eight wickets
2019 Jaydev Unadkat ₹8.4cr RR
Struggled to get going. Took 10 wickets in 11 matches at an economy rate of 10.66
2019 Varun Chakaravarthy R8.4cr KXIP
Played just one match before being ruled out of the tournament with a fractured finger
2020 Pat Cummins ₹15.5cr KKR
His performance was up and down. Took just 12 wickets in 14 matches.