The MI Paltan have a strong domestic core and the auction will revolve around the three retained players. One issue that has plagued the Ambani franchise is the lack of stable openers since the exit of Sachin Tendulkar. Makeshift wicket keeper openers such as Parthiv Patel and Jos Butler have had limited success. In that regard, someone like Quinton de Cock is likely to come into Mumbai’s broad idea. MI think tank is likely to go for stable openers or versatile batsmen which will allow skipper Rohit Sharma to assume his natural hunting position at the top of the order. Another aspect of MI’s strategy is investing in Harbhajan Singh and Lasith Malinga who bring great brand value being vetarans of the Mumbai set up. Mumbai is likely to use the RTM card on Kieoron Pollard. What will be most interesting is MI’s take on Krunal Pandya and Nithish Rana who are amongst the most popular uncapped players.
Rajasthan will be eager to bring back the success of Watson-Faulkner-Morris all rounder trio by picking same or similar pace all-rounders. With only Steve Smith retained, the franchise has deep pockets to splurge on the likes of Ben Stokes and Dwayne Bravo. The franchise will also want to invest in brand recall. Coming back after a gap of two years, players like Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson and Dhawal Kulkarni will be on the franchise’s radar. Ajinkya Rahane will also double up as the stand-in-skipper, should Steve Smith take a break considering the long and hectic schedule before the IPL. Rajasthan Royals have also produced good domestic talents and designated scouts have probably earmarked players to feature for the Royals. Considering that only one player is retained and the franchise is starting afresh after 2 years, it is likely they invest in experienced players such as Ambatti Rayudu, Shakib Al Hasan, Amit Mishra or even Yuvraj Singh to serve as insurance policies, should things go downhill.
Tom Moody is a no nonsense coach. It doesn’t matter what tag or brand you bring in, you play- you stay. The likes of Moises Henriques, Kane Williamson, Mustafizur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi have earned spots despite not having “T20 Franchise” repute. The franchise will look to invest in quality overseas T20 batsmen in order to reduce the pressure on skipper David Warner who has single handedly carried the team forward in the batting department. Someone like Hashim Amla or Eoin Morgan will add the much needed stability. The orange army are most likely to use their RTM on Shikar Dhawan, Rashid Khan and Moises Henriques. Bhuvi’s opening bowler partner will be important as he is most effective when hunting with a partner and SRH will have their sights set on Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins or even Mitchell Starc.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
RCB have invested in major T20 champs. A side that boasts Virat Kohli, ABD, Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Mitchell Starc and Yuzvendra Chahal should probably win the tourney handsdown. But this hasn’t been the case as RCB have several gaps to plug. Part time keeper KL Rahul was rather clumsy behind the stumps and head coach Vettori will be looking out for Dinesh Karthik or Parthiv Patel for their glove work. With the high scoring Chinnaswamy Stadium as their home turf, RCB have to work out a strong bowling lineup to counter the free flowing runs at this small venue, something that has been overlooked in the past. In the unlikely event of RCB wanting to play safe, bowlers such as Pat Cummins and Amit Mishra are foolproof plans. One player who has had good success against RCB and is up for auction is Ravichandran Ashwin who might be a great addition to the side and will be looking to contest fiercely at the auction table for the test regular. RCB are however, most likely to go into the auction just like RCB, splurging on big names and living dangerously, the one guy at every party.
Kings XI Punjab
What can we accurately predict or speculate about Kings XI? Absolutely nothing. A highly volatile side, the Kings XI set up has been chopping and changing throughout the decade. Axar Patel is the only player to be retained. Team mentor Virender Sehwag who was visibly the authority at auction table last year, has been very vocal about the domestic talents the side hosts and hence is likely to favour Sandeep Sharma and Manan Vohra. IPL vetaran Shaun Marsh and T20 record holder David Miller are likely to attract RTMs. Kings XI’s take on Glenn Maxwell will be very interesting as the Australian all-rounder had misfired in all but one season and is also out of favour for Australian side. Home tracks in Indore and Mohali make it imperative to have a stable line up with adequate spin options, a second spinner along with Axar Patel like Karn Sharma or Amit Mishra will bear dividends. Kings XI also suffer from not having an India limited overs regular in the side, and will be looking at players like Kedhar Jhadav, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane.
Delhi Daredevils in the last decade has looked lost unlike any franchise in T20 career. Delhi has often fallen victim to ‘premature investments’ considering players such as David Warner, Andre Russel, Glenn Maxwell were once in the set up and later let go for them to become powerhouses. Delhi also has a habit of procuring players such as Marlon Samuels, JP Duminy, Ross Taylor and Albie Morkel who have lost favour with other IPL sides and also goes on to wield them in games. Delhi’s messiah in the last 2 years , coach Rahul Dravid, however has been a force multiplier. The India U19 and India A head coach has a special ability: he knows the Indian National Team of tomorrow. This has prompted investment in Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Sanju Samson. Once Ricky Ponting takes over, Delhi are likely to use a RTM on Quinton de Cock, despite having a wicket keeper. However, Delhi might have to take a page from RCB’s over abundant text book and look to invest in quality T20 overseas options. It wouldn’t hurt to have Aaron Finch or Colin Munro walking down the ground to open the attack alongside Shreyas Iyer.
Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR is faced with an unlikely impediment. The mighty Eden Gardens, the home of the Knight Riders, is green and pace friendly which is a stark contrast from other pitches. This essentially means KKR will have to swap between pace and spin bowlers between away and home which is fatal to team balance. To counter this KKR came up with sheer brilliance. Management and cricket went hand-in-hand as CEO Venky Mysore and head coach Jacques Kallis created a team with Woakes, Coulternile Boult and Umesh Yadav while Narine and Kuldeep Yadav were spinners. This IPL auction won’t be very different as KKR will seek to retain the majority of the same squad. A top heavy batting order will be on KKR’s radar as they will rely more on seam bowling all rounders down the order followed by a strong spin duo. Sunil Narine and Andre Russel are the only retained players which allows KKR a broad spectrum to choose from. The price KKR is ready to shell out for Gautam Gambhir will dictate the future of the veteran in IPL. Possible RTMs include Chris Lynn, Colin Munro, Manish Pandey amongst others.
Chennai Super Kings
CSK and Stephen Flemming is perhaps the most predictable strategy amongst the 8. A strong batting lineup with overseas players and batting options all the way into 8 or even 9. Eleven players walk out as 8 batting options and 6 bowling options. CSK want to retain the core team and will look to use RTMs on Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo. It will be interesting to see if CSK are ready to spend the big bucks for Ravichandran Ashwin who enjoys homeboy following but has been exiled out of the limited over Indian side. Dhoni will also like to have Washington Sundar and Vijay Shankar in the side as they present multiple options and enjoy the homeboy advantage. When your wicket keeper is the skipper and a middle order batsman, a reserve keeper is redundant unless injury strikes. CSK will look to invest in a good domestic middle order batsman who doubles up as a part time keeper, such as Kedhar Jhadav or Robin Uthappa and is likely to feature in all the games. This way, should the skipper be injured, a ready reckoner is available without compromising on team balance. CSK have always won half the battle by making great decisions at the auction table. The IPL 2018 auction will, without doubt, see some similar strategies that will later reflect on the pitch.
The IPL auction is an amalgam of finance, economics, branding and cricket. As players are traded off and careers decided, the franchises seek to build a squadron of ambassadors who best represent their ideals. Nothing about the auction is certain and ad hoc decisions dictate the success of a franchise.
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