Finally, it came to an end.
Just how long it took for the sides to decide on their squad of 25 (or less) for the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) season, was a lesson for all those wanting to spend money.
Even if you have the money, don't be reckless, was the lesson for all from the two-day mega auction in Bengaluru.
The franchise owners have become smarter than before and unlike early years, they seem to weigh each option before deciding on their picks. Some franchises still do make mistakes, like what Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders did over the course of two days, but there are some improvements on their past follies as well.
Punjab Kings have always made a hash of their picks on the auction table with at times poor choices and planning, whereas Mumbai has historically been the most organised team since the 2011 edition of the IPL.
Both sides have varied approaches to the auction.
Punjab Impressed at IPL Auction
At the end of the two-day mega auction of 2022, you have got to say that Punjab have finally turned a corner in the IPL. Finally, it appears that Punjab have made choices that have been thought-through. There seems to be a genuine attempt to reset the clock by Punjab, at least on evidence that was presented to the world via the auction. Now it remains to be seen if the choices deliver in results on the field.
Let us look at their squad for a moment and divide it into two.
On Saturday, like most other sides, they went in for the big buys. They splurged hard on their big-ticket buys like Shikhar Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada, Jonny Bairstow, and Rahul Chahar. Their thought was clear: they needed an opener to replace Lokesh Rahul, a strike bowler to replace Mohammed Shami, and a leg-spinner who can start for them regularly. They got all three in Dhawan, Rabada, and Chahar. Bairstow will arrive late because of international commitments, but he is a beast at the top of the order and a more than capable replacement for IPL GOAT Chris Gayle.
Punjab Kings then went in for their old talents Shahrukh Khan and Harpreet Brar. When they got Shahrukh for Rs 9 crore, it was clear Punjab were keen to build their side around young talent like him, and hence were prepared to go big. Ishan Porel (Rs 25 lakh) was another of those players that they went with, purely on the basis of his promise.
Two players – Liam Livingstone and Odean Smith – have been picked purely on their reputation of being devastating short-format players.
Livingstone especially is a demon with the bat and can bowl leg-spin or off-spin on demand. The fact that they went all out for Livingstone shows that they had planned hard to get him at any cost and they finally did at a fairly big price! Meanwhile, Smith is a bustling character who has made it on his recent performances against India.
If you just went by the number of local players Punjab have picked, you understand that they have made a good fist of the research this time. They deserve complete kudos for the effort put in to plump for a number of domestic spin bowling all-rounders. But probably the smartest buy was their set of seam bowling all-rounders: Rishi Dhawan, Raj Angad Bawa, and Prerak Mankad. To have these India picks alongside the young Arshdeep Singh will be a good mix to have.
Dhawan is back in the mix after a good domestic white-ball season, Bawa for his Under-19 exploits, and Mankad has been rewarded for his consistency. Even others like Nathan Ellis and Benny Howell are value picks for a side trying to recast themselves.
But if there is one quibble with the Punjab line-up, that has to be with their leadership choice. Do they know who their natural captain is? Or is it still up in the air? That could prove to be their undoing because they have struggled with finding a long-term captain.
Not Mumbai's Strongest Auction Outing
Mumbai, on the other hand, have no captaincy concerns, because it is clear that Rohit Sharma is the leader on and off the field. That is a huge plus because Sharma’s stamp or imprint is quite visible in the way the side has been picked, because his inputs count for a lot.
Mumbai was slow to start off on Saturday. They went without a buy for the first 40 players auctioned on Day 1, and waited for Ishan Kishan, as they had not retained a wicket-keeper. The manner in which they went about ensuring Kishan returned to Mumbai made it clear that they see the future in him. A high price tag was expected for Kishan, but even in the wildest dreams he may not have dreamt of netting Rs 15.25 crore. Kishan is their number one choice behind the stumps with no Quinton de Kock around and that should make him a regular in the XI.
Mumbai were also very clear that they needed South African Under-19 cricketer Dewald Brevis or 'Baby AB' and went after him with vengeance. Their army of scouts had identified Brevis, and Marco Jansen before him. The joy on their faces was one to behold when they finally netted Brevis for Rs 3 crore. This was a pick for the future, much like Kishan.
The same holds true for some other picks like Mayank Markande, who is back with the franchise and N Tilak Varma for whom Mumbai paid a hefty fee of Rs 1.70 crore. But then Mumbai went quiet for a while, names kept coming up and there was no movement from their table. Everyone wondered just what was up.
They did make the odd buy here and there, but it was not with the same vigour.
Then it all changed!
Jofra Archer, who was expected to be the biggest buy of the auction, came up and Mumbai went all out.
They were aware of his injury status and that he may not be available to play IPL this year, but Mumbai seems to have made another pick for the future editions.
Just imagine the mouth-watering prospect of seeing Jasprit Bumrah and Archer together in an XI. If you are batter, start thinking of options to score runs at the death with these two around.
The other big buy for Mumbai was Singapore-born Australian Tim David who they bought for Rs 8.25 crore. A big-hitting all-round cricketer, David is another one to watch out for.
The 26-year-old former RCB all-rounder is setting leagues across the globe on fire and the small grounds in India will not be enough for him. David is another of those long-term picks that Mumbai has put its weight behind. He is also a back-up for their regular player Kieron Pollard if and when he is unavailable.
Of the others, Mumbai have managed bargain buys with England’s T20 specialist Tymal Mills (Rs 1.50 crore) and Australia’s express paceman Riley Meredith (Rs 1 crore). These two are effective back-ups for Archer as overseas fast bowlers. Daniel Sams and Fabian Allen are also two effective short-format all-rounders who fit in well with the requirements of Mumbai.
With Hardik Pandya out of the mix, Mumbai have plumped for a number of dual-purpose players from the domestic circuit. They want to invest in them for now and see the returns in a few years.
One area of concern for them for is the spin department. With Rahul Chahar and Jayant Yadav now with new teams, the onus will fall on Murugan Ashwin to lead the attack. He will obviously have a few part-timers for support, but it will not be the same as before.
Mumbai appears to have covered all the bases, as always, thanks to their excellent scouting network, which features Kiran More, Parthiv Patel, R Vinay Kumar, and John Wright. It now remains to be seen if they can translate these choices on the field with performances.
Thankfully, all the shopping is done for now and it is time to see if they can fit all the purchases in one travel bag and not be charged for excess weight. For that we need to wait till the IPL 2022 action gets underway in late March.
Till then it is time to kick back and rest. Netflix and chill maybe?