Like every year, the 2017 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction played out like a good potboiler – some drama, little chaos, a generous dose of frantic bidding fights, a side of misdirection and plenty of plot twists.
These plot twists – unexpected players being sold for big bucks and big players remaining unsold – is probably what makes IPL Auction an exciting watch. Every edition has some surprise purchases for shocking payments, but the 2017 edition saw a clear rise in the bizarre, outshining Pawan Negi and Murugan Ashwin’s shock bid in 2016. (Read: Karn Sharma, K Gowtham and Mumbai Indians)
But perhaps the most baffling aspect was the kind of players who were left out. No biggies other than just the number one bowler in the world, the Man of the Match in the 2016 World T20 final, the highest run-getter ever in Indian first-class season, and, well, you get the idea…
Maybe the IPL franchises seem to be baffled by the variety on offer, or maybe they wanted to take the road less taken, but the absence of some of the biggest names in the games is hard to explain. To set it straight, on paper, we decided to get our own IPL XI, made completely of unsold players, and on paper, they look formidable enough to take on the best of rest.
On paper, England’s opener Alex Hales seems to be a good fit for IPL teams. Hard-hitting and prolific, he has often given his national team the platform to go for big totals – a handy skill for T20 cricket in sub continental conditions. In 2016, Mumbai Indians picked him as a replacement for Corey Anderson, however he didn’t get a chance to do much then and won’t have another chance this year, unless similarly replaced for a injured player. However, Hales will do nicely as the opener for our Unsold XI.
Remember Manvinder Bisla, who lead Kolkata Knight Riders to their first IPL trophy in 2012? The wicketkeeper-batsman scored a blistering 89 off 48 as they defeated Chennai Super Kings in the final, and was the Man of the Match. On his day, Bisla is a solid opener and handy keeper and we see him as an able foil to Hales for this Unsold XI. Bonus: His base price is 10 lakh, giving us the option to get into hypothetical bidding wars for other players.
It is an established fact that Pujara is a conundrum when it comes to T20 cricket. However he has been adding his name to IPL auction list every year in the hope of getting another shot to shed his Test-specialist tag, and the batsman definitely has the potential to become a good T20 sheet anchor, especially in Indian conditions. While he was left disappointed two years in a row as he went unsold yet again, we would pick him up just to cash in on the rich vein of form he has been in. We’re pretty sure he will want to prove his detractors wrong.
With his powerful batting, his experience in India conditions, and now the green light to bowl his handy offspin, we would pick Marlon Samuels in a heartbeat. The Man of the Match in not one but two ICC World T20 finals, Samuels has the ability to be a game changer in pressure situations and can perform the role of the important T20 role of power hitter, a role that he would definitely play for this team, if it existed.
The team here has done some scouting of its own and unearthed that Central Zone’s Harpreet Singh, the highest run getter in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with 211 runs in 4 matches at an average of almost 53, was available to be picked. The left-handed batting all-rounder is a former Under-19 player and with a base price of 20 lakh, and could be a good Indian option for the middle order.
The Sri Lankan has all the makings of a good all-rounder in IPL. Remember his slam-bang performance in the 2016 edition against Royal Challengers Bangalore? Perera had smashed 34 runs of 13 balls with 3 fours and 3 sixes, after having taken 3 wickets for Rising Pune Supergiants. His IPL career is peppered by several such cameos, having played for Chennai Super Kings, Kochi Tuskers Kerala, Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Rising Pune Supergiants. However, the much-travelled all-rounder can only represent this Unsold XI in the 2017 edition.
Once a national star, Irfan Pathan has been relegated to an IPL/domestic cricket specialist in the latter half of his career. He had an ordinary outing in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with five wickets and 32 runs in five matches. Add that to a forgettable time in the last edition with the Rising Pune Supergiants, and it is clear why no team bid for him. However, the 32-year-old (yes, he is still just 32) is a proven performer in Indian conditions – he can play the role of a pinch hitter especially against spinners and is a handy pacer to pitch in with crucial breakthroughs. It will be strange to see Yusuf Pathan play in the tournament, while his younger brother won’t.
Parvez Rasool, the first player from Jammu and Kashmir to play in the IPL, has played for Pune Warriors India, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers in the past. However, this year, the off-spinning all-rounder will have to contend with representing the Unsold XI has he was mysteriously let go in the auctions. He has played a lone ODI and T20I for India, after successful domestic outings for J&K, and has done well in the limited IPL opportunities he got. Handy with the bat and crafty with the ball, he could at least be a good all-round player for our team.
The World No 1 bowler in both limited-overs formats not finding a team in the IPL, for a base price of 50 lakh, after two rounds of auction, is inexplicable, especially when another leg spinner, Karn Sharma went for crores. Not a week before, the 37-year-old became the second-fastest bowler and fastest South African to take 50 T20I wickets. With such an illustrious wicket-taking record, the only conceivable reason to leave out Tahir seems to be his athletic, eclectic celebration after taking a wicket. Honestly, we would have the entire team join him in the celebrations.
Ishant Sharma, an established international bowler with plenty of IPL experience, at a base price of 2 crore, went unsold in two rounds of the auction.
Aniket Choudhary, a pacer who has hardly played domestic T20 cricket, a base price 10 lakh, was fought over and ultimately bought by the Royal Challengers Bangalore for 2 crores.
While Ishant is not known to be an exceptional T20 bowler, one does wonder why India’s most experienced paceman failed to find a taker in an IPL auction dominated by pace bowlers. But if it’s any consolation, he will lead this Unsold XI’s fast bowling department.
Pragyan Ojha could just hold the title for the most unlucky Indian spinner in recent times. On the face of it, the leggie has some serious IPL cred in the bank: TWO championship trophies, a Purple Cap, consistent performances, ability to choke up the runs like a good spinner, and a proven track record (89 wkts, avg of 26.2 and economy of 7.37). Yet he finds himself without a team to play for in 2017, much like on the international circuit when he couldn’t fix his place in Team India despite good performances. But not to worry, he will find a permanent spot in teams such as ours.
12th man: Mehedi Hasan Miraz
Bangladesh’s emerging spinner, has the right mix of talent and experience to be part of an IPL team. But for now, we will keep him as a reserve.
Fun fact: This entire team, with the 12th man, would cost only 7.5 crore (at base price). Less than what Negi got last year and definitely much cheaper than Ben Stokes.