IPL Auction 2021: Chris Morris becomes IPL's most expensive player
Who is the most expensive player ever to play in the history of the IPL? At 16.25 crore, that record is now held by South Africa’s Chris Morris, bought by Rajasthan Royals in the 2021 auction in Chennai on Thursday. You will be forgiven if you can’t immediately recall Morris’s exploits on the field. The 33-year-old 6ft 4 all-rounder from South Africa is not the stuff of legends. For his country, he has played four Tests, 42 ODIs and 23 T20s— yet with power hitters who can bowl in constant short-supply and limited impact players in this year’s auction short-list, Morris attracted frenzied bidding with teams like Mumbai Indians, Punjab Kings and even Royal Challengers Bangalore (who released him for the auction) bidding for the South African.
Is Morris of 2021 better than the past record-holders for the most expensive player in the IPL—Yuvraj Singh of 2015, Pat Cummins of 2020 or Ben Stokes of 2017?
The verdict on that will have to wait, but Morris clearly does not have the aura or the marketing potential of his predecessors. The other thing that’s clear is that RR have well and truly moved on from being the leagues “moneyball” side. Morris will play under Sanju Samson’s captainship who will receive half his pay.
“We spoke to Chris before the auction and did a full medical review,” said Jake Lush McCrum, RR's COO in a virtual conference. “He is an ex-Royal and is one of those players with experience who can deal with a price tag like that.” Morris missed 5 matches to a side-strain last year, but with an IPL strike rate of 157 and 80 wickets, he gets another go to prove a point, and his worth.
This was an auction that heavily favoured all-rounders.
Before Morris, Australian “big-show” Glenn Maxwell who knows all about handling prize tags, went for big money yet again—at 14.25 crore, the most he has ever made in the IPL. But RCB were desperately in search of a hard-hitter, who could, preferably, also bowl. So were Chennai Super Kings who too bid for the enterprising batting star. But RCB had more money to play with, and CSK stopped raising the paddle. Maxwell had made his interest in playing with Virat Kohli clear before the auction began.
“Looking forward to joining @RCBTweets for this year’s @IPL Can’t wait to put everything I have into helping us lift the trophy!,” he tweeted.
In case of New Zealand’s 6’8 quick Kyle Jamieson and Australian fast bowler Jhye Richardson, it was no secret that more than one franchise were in need of quality pace reinforcements. Richardson, who has a whippy fast arm action, is still young in his international career but led the wicket-taking charts in this year’s Big Bash League. Punjab won the fierce bidding war with RCB to draft him in their mix. “We knew there would be competition for Richardson,” Punjab Kings head coach Anil Kumble told the official broadcasters. “The prize may be skewed but we knew this could happen in a small auction. We were looking for him with the balance of our team. Money, so be it.”
After losing Richardson to Punjab, RCB beat them in a bidding war to clinch services of Jamieson who was on show last year against India. Jamieson may not be a household yet, but he is fast on his way to becoming one. He holds the New Zealand T20 record for best bowling, 6 wickets for 7 in the 2019 Super Smash. He made his debut for New Zealand against India in last year, and in the limited cricket that has been played since, he has risen with great speed, taking two fifers in his first four Tests.
Now here he is, with an opportunity to work with the Indian captain, and provide some sharpness to an ever-struggling bowling attack.
PLAYING IT SMART
While RCB poured money on their picks, at the other end, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders didn’t even pad up for the prize war, yet came up with some smart picks. “We told our friends who have money, you have turned this into a spectator sport for us,” said KKR CEO Venky Mysore. “But, it’s also a reflection of what we already have.” KKR won back their all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan for a steal – 3.2 crores. Veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh who went unsold earlier, will also play for KKR.
Five-time champions MI, always adept at quietly making most of the auction, were at it again. After releasing Nathan Coulter Nile, they won him back for a lesser – 5 crore. They also managed to add New Zealand quick Adam Milne for 3.2 crore; the pace duo effectively coming in for Coulter Nile’s 2020 pay.
Chennai Super Kings would also be happy with their spoils on the auction table. Their spin-to-win strategy was undone in UAE last year, and they were looking for spin bowling additions after releasing Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan Singh. Getting Moeen Ali at 7 crore, with his all-round abilities and the off-spinning all-rounder Krishnappa Gowtham at 9.25 crore—a record for an uncapped player—captain MS Dhoni would be a happy captain.
It was a good day for uncapped Indian players—names who have been on the radar recently for their performances in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy, all found takers—batsman Shahrukh Khan (Punjab Kings), left-arm seamers Chetan Sakariya (RR) and Lukman Meriwala (DC), batsman Sheldon Jackson (KKR), wicket-keeper batsman Mohammed Azharudden (RCB).