The IPL 2017 auction is out of the way and as expected players from England as well as the uncapped stars from the Indian domestic circuit were in high demand. What was heartening to see was that the franchises showed their interest in three players from associate nations too, with the noteworthy pick being 18-year old Rashid Khan from Afghanistan, who went for a whopping INR 4 Crore.
Players who had performed well in the Indian domestic season including the likes of Aniket Choudhary, Ishank Jaggi, Ankit Bawne, and Mohammed Siraj deservedly got a look in. The talent scouts from the IPL franchises also had their eyes on players like T Natarajan, B Thampi and M Ashwin, who had performed well in the TNPL.
Now that the auction is done, it is a good time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of all eight IPL squads.
The IPL 2016 champions made some smart buys in the auction with the most expensive being young Rashid Khan from Afghanistan and his team mate Mohammad Nabi, being a smart pick at the base price of INR 30 lakhs. The Sunrisers have a settled pace bowling line-up, hence they targeted a couple of spinners to add variety and succeeded in grabbing a few.
Strengths: A strong bowling line up, which was the key to SRH winning the title in 2016, has got more bite with the inclusion of spinners like Pravin Tambe, Rashid Khan and Nabi besides adding a death over specialist in Chris Jordan. SRH also have some useful seam bowling all-rounders in Moises Henriques, Ben Cutting and Ben Laughlin.
Weakness: Their batting line-up is top heavy with David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan followed by Kane Williamson (though it remains to be seen if he will get into the final XI) and Yuvraj Singh. The middle and lower middle order looks a little light on paper and this is where local talents like Deepak Hooda, Vijay Shankar, Tanmay Agarwal and the experienced Naman Ojha will have to come good and complement their bowlers.
Prediction: A place in the play-off.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
The most impressive franchise of IPL not to have won the title, RCB captain, Virat Kohli would like to change that dubious record before the grand auction next year. Pawan Negi, who made the headlines after the 2016 auction, flew under the radar in this year’s auction but RCB were smart to pocket him for INR 1 crore. He may turn out to be the all-round spin option which will add balance to their side.
Strengths: RCB’s strength is undoubtedly their batting. In Virat Kohli, they have a captain who wears his heart on his sleeve and churns out runs consistently. The most destructive T20 opener in the world - Chris Gayle, and the flamboyant AB de Villiers, who can hit a cricket ball to any part of the ground, are two of RCB’s key batsmen. Add KL Rahul, Shane Watson and Kedar Jadhav to the list and any bowling line up will be scratching their heads on how to contain them.
Weakness: Mitchel Starc’s absence is a huge blow to RCB which they have attempted to fill by signing Tymal Mills. Mills, though impressive during the T20 series for England in India, will be tested on the batting-friendly surface of Chinnaswamy Stadium. RCB has invested heavily in an uncapped Indian left-arm seamer, Aniket Chaudhary, and it remains to be seen if he has the temperament to bowl to high-quality international batsmen.
Prediction: Like in 2016, it’s their batsmen who will have to outscore the opposition and cover up for their light bowling attack. But a place in the play-off should be theirs for the taking.
Kolkata Knight Riders
As always, the KKR management was very astute in buying players in this auction as well. The Kolkata team are not known to spend exorbitant amounts, which was the case in this auction as well, as KKR made a smart buy in Chris Woakes to cover for Andre Russell.
Meanwhile, to cover for Woakes when he is away on national duty, they have invested in Australian, Nathan Coulter-Nile. KKR were also successful in bidding for a couple of good Indian resources in Ishank Jaggi and Rishi Dhawan to add to their impressive bench strength.
Strengths: As was the case in 2016, the bowling will be KKR’s main strength this year too. They have pace, variety in the spin department, and with the addition of Trent Boult, they have a much needed overseas quick who is available for the entire season. On the batting front too, they have a reliable opening pair followed by a solid middle order which includes a couple of good local batters.
Weakness: With Andre Russell missing, the power hitting duties fall on the shoulders of Yusuf Pathan and the likes of Woakes or Powell. How these men provide the impetus to a solid foundation laid by the top order will be the key differentiator between an average score and an above par score for KKR.
Prediction: If everything falls into place, a spot in the play-offs is assured.
The debutants surprised everyone in 2016 by finishing at the top of the league table last year. However, Gujarat Lions’ strategy during this year’s auction was bemusing, to say the least. They needed an overseas fast bowler as a backup to the only one they have – Andrew Tye, but picked none. A leg-spinner to replace Pravin Tambe or an off-spinner to add variety was another gap which they had to plug and they went with a little-known spinner in Tejas Baroka.
Strengths: The Lions’ strength is their explosive top order of Jason Roy, Brendon McCullum, Dwyane Smith and Aaron Finch, though only two out of these four may figure in the final XI. Suresh Raina at No. 3, the most capped player in IPL history, and an exciting young player in Ishan Kishan would add some spice in the middle order. Jadeja, Bravo and Faulkner will provide all round balance to the side.
Weakness: A weak middle order and a dearth of Indian bowling talent barring Ravindra Jadeja is an area of concern for the Gujarat Lions. To cover up for these inadequacies, it’s the top order which will have to score heavily. They also don’t have any local Indian batsman of note outside of their first XI and will struggle if one of their first choice batsman is out of form.
Prediction: A spot in top four looks tough in 2017.
The two-time IPL and CL T20 champions are one of the most successful teams in IPL history. So it was a surprise when MI failed to make it to the last four in 2016. In the 2017 auctions, they made unsuccessful bids for Ben Stokes, Trent Boult, Tymal Mills and Rashid Khan but were successful in buying the exciting Sri Lankan batsman, Asela Gunaratne, and retired Australian quick, Mitchell Johnson.
Strengths: Mumbai Indians made a smart buy in Mitchell Johnson to add to their impressive pace bowling arsenal which is led by Lasith Malinga and Jasprith Bumrah. Spinners like Harbhajan Singh, Karn Sharma and Krunal Pandya add variety to their bowling.
Weakness: Rohit Sharma, who is coming back from an injury, will need support from Ambati Rayudu and Parthiv Patel at the top to set a platform for the explosive middle order batsmen like Jos Buttler, Kieron Pollard and the Pandya brothers to tee off. Therein lies an opportunity to exploit, for MI’s opponents. If the top order fails, they don’t have a stable middle order to rebuild the innings.
Prediction: They should make it to the last 4.
Delhi Daredevils are serial underachievers of the league having reached the last four stage only thrice in 9 years. They qualified for the now defunct CL T20 twice, in 2009 and 2012. During the auction this year, they pursued the signature of Ben Stokes, only to lose him to RPS. They succeeded in grabbing a couple of other overseas all-rounders like Corey Anderson and Angelo Matthews.
Strengths: The Daredevils have a fantastic set of Indian batsmen in Shreyas Iyer, Rishab Pant, Karun Nair, and Sanju Samson to go with their equally impressive foreign batsman, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy and Sam Billings. They also have good lower order power hitters in Carlos Brathwaite and Chris Morris, which means that their batting is good shape, at least on paper, and it remains their stronger area.
Weakness: The Daredevils' bowling is their weak link and their Indian seam bowling bench looks a little thin with the exception of Shami. They will have to rely on their spinners - Amit Mishra, Jayant Yadav and Shahbaz Nadeem to deliver the goods. Further, four of their probable first choice overseas players are all South Africans and may not be available for the entire duration of the league, which may distort the balance of their final XI.
Prediction: Only some tactical magic from Rahul Dravid may see them through to the play-offs.
Rising Pune Supergiants
RPS made all the headlines prior to the auction by announcing Steve Smith as their captain for the season and by pouching Ben Stokes for INR 14.5 crores during the auction. This has made them the most expensive franchise at INR 65.7 crore in 2017. RPS required a few Indian seamers in their squad and hence went for T Natarajan, Nathu Singh and Basil Thampi but had to be content with only Jaydev Unadkat.
Strengths: The Supergiants have a more settled top 6 than last year, when they were unlucky with injuries to their first choice players. They also have two first rate spinners in R Ashwin and Adam Zampa.
Weakness: For RPS, the seam bowling department remains their main worry, with the erratic Ashok Dinda and Ishwar Pandey as their two first-choice Indian bowlers, but all-rounders Ben Stokes and Daniel Christian could be their opening bowlers. They have a bare cupboard when it comes to backup batsmen, be it Indian or overseas.
Prediction: They may finish higher than what they did last year but a place in the play-off looks tough.
Kings XI Punjab
KXIP is a team which has finished at the bottom of the table three times in the IPL history. In 2017, KXIP has the least expensive squad at INR 52.1 crore. In spite of not spending heavily at the auction, they were successful in pocketing good white ball specialists in Eoin Morgan, Martin Guptill and Darren Sammy.
Strength: KXIP have good overseas batting options in Shaun Marsh (the Orange Cap holder of 2008 edition of IPL), David Miller, Eoin Morgan and Glenn Maxwell. They also have a couple of decent all-rounders, in Marcus Stoinis and the two-time T20 World Cup winning captain of the West Indies – Darren Sammy.
Weakness: KXIP are short on quality spinners in their team with Axar Patel the only good spinner in their squad.
Prediction: Like last year, they will struggle to qualify for play-offs.