IPL Auction Preview- part two

Jack Hope and Max Rowe-Brown bring you part two of our IPL auction preview, featuring: RCB, Sunrisers, the Capitals and Mumbai Indians.

Following on from part one of our 2021 IPL auction preview, Jack and Max bring you part two. Featuring the four play-off contenders from last year’s tournament.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Max Rowe-Brown: RCB never cease to amaze. We often chastise them for muddled thinking on the pitch, often appearing rudderless as they seem content to score around 160 in every match, whether they are batting first, chasing 160, or chasing 200. It seems the muddled thinking on the pitch is replicated off of it. They made the play-offs in IPL20, overcoming a late blip to squeak into 4th place on net run rate, before losing to Sunrisers Hyderabad. That was a disappointing result, especially after a strong start to the competition, and a number of the squad have paid the price - 10 players released, the most of any franchise.

Last year’s failings are particularly disappointing because of the array of talent at RCB’s disposal. They boast some of the most exciting young Indian talent in Siraj, Saini, Sundar and Paddikal, complemented by the experience of Yuzvendra Chahal, AB de Villiers, and some guy called Virat Kohli, who I’m told is also quite good. That is 7 players in a fairly strong first team already, with 13 slots available at auction (4 overseas).

To be honest, RCB could go for almost anyone. They’ve released batters in the shape of Aaron Finch and Gurkeerat Singh, all rounders in Chris Morris in Shivam Dube, a spinner (and batter) in Moeen Ali, pacers in Dale Steyn and Umesh Yadav, and wicket keeper Parthiv Patel has retired. Talk about a clear out. Some releases seem a little harsh too: none more so than Chris Morris, who took the joint second-most wickets for RCB last season, at an economy rate of 6.63. He also bats at a career IPL strike rate of 157.9, which is useful to have. Not good enough for RCB though, apparently.

So, while there is a lot of replacing to do, we should focus on who will fill the big shoes vacated by the big names. The good news for RCB, having culled their overseas contingent, is that there are plenty of places in the first team for overseas stars. With Finch dumped there is room for an opener, where Alex Hales or Jason Roy are options. Some commentators have suggested T20’s leading batsman, Dawid Malan, would be best used higher up the order - more balls means more runs, after all - so he is also in the mix. Steve Smith decided he wanted to try opening the batting last year, so he too will be on the radar. RCB should have no issue picking up one of the above.

The middle order, now down Morris and Dube, would be given more of a batting focus by Glenn Maxwell. However, another possibility is a more like-for-like replacement for Chris Morris, in the shape of Chris Morris.

The final piece of this quite oddly shaped puzzle would be an overseas quick, where Mitchell Starc is an obvious choice. However, if it’s big shoes you’re looking to fill, look no further than New Zealand’s giant, Kyle Jamieson, who would be a bit of a punt but might contribute with the bat too.

Remember, teams can bid for the players they’ve released, so given RCB’s traditionally strange behaviour, don’t be surprised if they end up re-signing half of their old squad. They may well be trying to bring down the price on some of their underperformers by releasing them to the auction - but knowing RCB, they’ll probably end up buying them back for more.

Top targets: almost anyone… but chiefly Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Chris Morris, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Kyle Jamieson

Sunrisers Hyderabad

MRB: IPL20 was a funny old tournament for Sunrisers Hyderabad. On the face of things it was a decent year - losing to beaten finalists Delhi Capitals in Eliminator 2 after coming 3rd in the group stage. But that is far from the whole story, with their presence in the knockout stages made possible by an unexpected string of wins against the season’s top teams, combined with a total implosion of those around them. It was a year dogged by inconsistency, often going from the sublime to the ridiculous within the space of a few overs.

This inconsistency is symptomatic of the wider issues that plague the Sunrisers. On paper, they are a serious outfit, with some world class cricketers: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Rashid Khan, Kane Williamson, Jason Holder, Mohammad Nabi. Most would agree, I think, that the four best players from those - to fill the four available overseas slots on match day - would be Warner, Bairstow, Williamson and Rashid. That’s probably your top three and an all-rounder. This isn’t a problem, per se, as long as you have a couple of high-quality Indian players for the other roles - namely the middle order and the bowlers.

What is a problem, is that the Sunrisers’ most expensive Indian player is Manish Pandey, at 11m crore (approximately £1.1m) - a top order batsman. The result is a very unbalanced, top-heavy line up, which is overly reliant on a few (albeit very good) players for runs, and Rashid Khan for wickets. Sometimes it works, but too often the weaknesses are exploited. As happened so often last year, the runs dry up after a few wickets fall, with a lot of responsibility placed on the young shoulders of Priyam Garg in the middle order. With the ball, for all Rashid’s lethality, he needs back up. Much like with Jofra Archer at the Royals, opposition teams can almost ‘see off’ Rashid Khan. There are opportunities to make up the runs elsewhere against a limited Sunrisers attack. Young Natarajan had a successful season leading the pace attack in 2020, but winning the IPL needs more than two good bowling options.

Based on the back end of last season, it seems the people in charge have acknowledged that there's a problem, to a degree. Bairstow was on the receiving end of this realisation, as he was replaced by Wriddhiman Saha at the business end of the tournament. This freed up an overseas slot, allowing Jason Holder to come in and offer much needed variety with the ball, and a little more with the bat during the middle overs. However, with Saha at 36 years of age this is not a long-term solution.

The Sunrisers need balance. That comes in the form of some experience to bolster the middle order and an upgrade in the bowling department. Some of that has been achieved already without the need for entering the auction. Bhuvneshwar Kumar missed out last year through injury, so his return will be like a new signing, to dust off one of the old clichés. Another man off the sick bed is Mitch Marsh - the man Holder was brought in to replace - as he suffered a nasty ankle injury at the start of the 2020 tournament. 

As far as the auction is concerned, though, there might not be much more room for manoeuvre. Sunrisers have only released five players, have one overseas slot, and only 10.75 crore to play with - the joint least with KKR. Considering the trouble they already have with their overseas selection for the starting XI, they should be looking at Indian talent to aid their selection woes. That might be a project for the future since this mini auction features a limited pool, but for me there is a standout candidate for SRH. Shivam Dube, released by Royal Challengers Bangalore, would add an affordable option to the bowling attack along with some middle order firepower, all without taking up a precious overseas slot. There are a couple of homegrown bowling options available too. Umesh Yadav is up for grabs or, for a slightly more maverick and controversial option, a move for Sreesanth could be on the cards… 

With all that said, no doubt the Sunrisers will go all in on their apparent obsession and spend their last few rupees on Dawid Malan, and be left unable to shoehorn the world’s best T20 batter into the side.

Top targets: Shivam Dube, Umesh Yadav, Sreesanth.

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Delhi Capitals

Jack Hope: There is a lot less to say about the last two teams, primarily because they are much stronger more stable sides. Starting with the Capitals, last year a strong core of Indian players was powerfully augmented by the South African duo of Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada, as they finished as creditable runners-up to the Mumbai Indians. Wisely, they have decided to keep most of this team together, releasing only five fringe players in 2021. In an auction which could be dominated by bidding wars for overseas quick bowlers, the Capitals will be satisfied that this is not a market they need to dabble in. 

The area they would most like to improve is their lower order hitting, as they were heavily outmatched in their contests with Mumbai Indians in 2020. Unfortunately, their comparatively small purse may hamper their ambitions in this area, so whilst they would love to walk away with Glenn Maxwell, that is unlikely and they may have to be a little more creative. This could involve a slight batting order reshuffle and an upgrade at the top of the order, with English trio of Dawid Malan, Jason Roy and Alex Hales all potential candidates. 

Finally, they will also be on the hunt for back-ups to their overseas stars, as well as a wicket-keeper as cover for Rishabh Pant, they could do worse than picking up a cheap Tom Banton.

Top targets: Alex Hales, KS Bharat, Dawid Malan

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Mumbai Indians

JH: Without a doubt the Mumbai Indians will be the franchise happiest that this year’s scheduled mega-auction has been postponed. It is also no surprise, based on their dominant performance in 2020’s tournament, that they have chosen to keep the core of their God squad together. However, they go into the 2021 mini-auction with four open overseas player slots, so we should expect them to make a few interesting moves.

If they have a weakness it is in the pace bowling department, which is probably where they will spend the majority of their purse. Mitchell Starc would be the dream, but they may have to opt for a more balanced approach if other bidders drive his price too high. Kyle Jamieson is a potential alternative here, with the gigantic New Zealander looking to land his first IPL contract. It is also likely that they will look for a cheap back-up option for Rahul Chahar. 

Top targets: Mitchell Starc, Umesh Yadav, Kyle Jamieson

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We will be talking about the IPL retention lists on this week’s episode of The Cricket Podcast, which you can find via these links: Apple, Spotify, YouTube and on all other podcast providers. Part two of IPL auction preview is coming soon…