Another Indian Premier League auction beckons. The tenth one, in fact.
Indian Premier League auctions are strange events. For one, most accepted cricketing knowledge goes for an almighty toss. The restriction on overseas players (each team can only play four overseas players in a match) means there is an artificial inflation when it comes to the money paid out for an Indian player, as compared to an overseas player.
That has often led to big shocks: The hard-hitting Martin Guptill of New Zealand went unsold at the last auction while the 2011 auction had seen Brian Lara and Chris Gayle not receive any backers. In contrast, big money is often paid out for hitherto unseen Indian players, as was evident by some of the amounts paid for players like Pawan Negi and M Ashwin in 2016.
But, cricket doesn’t always play ball. Here are the five biggest disappointments from last year’s auctions:
Pawan Negi (Rs 8.5 crore)
Before last year’s auction, Pawan Negi was not even a mainstay in the Delhi first class team, having played only three matches. By the end of it though, he was positively beaming. Starting from a base price of Rs 30 lakh, franchises got involved in a fierce bidding war for the all-rounder. He ultimately wound up being bought by the Delhi Daredevils for a cool Rs 8.5 crore, the highest-paid Indian at the auction.
Unfortunately, the Daredevils got little return on all that investment. Negi only played in eight out of the 14 games and failed to excel, either with bat or ball. His overall strike rate remained below 100, a cardinal sin in Twenty20 cricket, while he managed to take only one wicket in the entire tournament. The Daredevils released him from their squad earlier in the month.
Sanju Samson (Rs 4.2 crore)
Sanju Samson was touted as India’s next big thing ever since he made waves for the Rajasthan Royals in the 2013 edition but disciplinary issues and a dip in form indicate that he may in danger of falling off.
The young Kerala batsman was snapped up for a substantial Rs 4.2 crore by Delhi Daredevils. Over the course of a season where he batted in the top three and even opened on several occasions, he found it unable to get going, scoring only one half-century at a batting average of 26.45. Even his strike rate, at just around 112, was not up to the mark.
Stuart Binny (Rs 2 crore)
Forever on the periphery of the Indian cricket team, Stuart Binny made a move back to the familiar environs of the Chinnaswamy Stadium in 2016 after Royal Challengers Bangalore brought him for Rs 2 crore, exactly at his base price.
While his batting numbers were nothing to write home about, that was still understandable as he mostly battled in the lower order and a high strike rate of 161.5 proved that at least, he went out swinging. It was however with the bowling that Binny let RCB down. In the 14 matches he played, he managed to take only one wicket at a colossal average of 134.
Murugan Ashwin (Rs 4.5 crore)
In many ways, the case of Murugan Ashwin is an example of how the IPL can turn almost anyone into a superstar overnight. The Chennai leg-spinner had only played three domestic first class matches and six domestic Twenty20s but Rising Pune Super Giants liked what they saw of him. He started with a base price of Rs 10 lakh and was finally sold for Rs 4.5 crore, 45 times his base price.
Ashwin started off well in his first three matches with figures of 1/16, 2/31 and 3/36 but failed to keep up that good form. After those six wickets in his first three matches, he could only pick up one more in the next seven matches he played which left him with an overall average of 34.42. He will be a free man this auction as the Rising Pune Super Giants released him earlier in the month.
Nathu Singh (Rs 3.2 crore)
To be absolutely fair, Nathu Singh, a fiery fast-bowler from Rajasthan, could not be considered a disappointment, mainly because he did not even get a chance to display his wares. At the 2016 auction, much was expected of him after Mumbai Indians picked him up for Rs 3.2 crore, a massive increase from a base price of just Rs 10 lakh.
But Mumbai Indians did not even give him a game and ultimately, the team did not make it to the top four last year. To buy a player for such big bucks and bench him through the season is hardly sound strategy. Maybe, it was Mumbai’s idea to mould a young player and hold on to him for the future? That could have been true, but for one small caveat: Mumbai released him from their squad earlier in the month.