IPL Auction 2019: Ashwin’s KXIP Buy Big, But Not Necessarily Right
Kings XI Punjab went into the IPL auction with Rs 36.20 Crore – the highest auction purse among all franchises – at their disposal. After a post-season purge in which the team released as many as 14 players in November, they looked set for a complete overhaul and had the funds to form a new-look team. Good all-rounders and pacers looked like the need of the hour for the Ashwin-led side which was expected to be among the busiest tables at the auction venue in Jaipur on Tuesday.
And they did not disappoint, making the joint-highest bid for the most expensive Indian player at Rs 8.40 Crore for Varun Chakaravarthy and also the highest bid for an overseas player at Rs 7.20 Crore for Sam Curran.
However, in doing so, they also came off as rather confused. The think tank lost the plot somewhere as they failed to plug important holes in their squad and instead ended up spending big on purchases surplus to their needs.
So, let’s analyze where they stand at the end of the auction by comparing their positions before and after the event.
Retained Players: 9
Players Traded In: 1
Available Budget : Rs 36.20 Crore
Available Slots: 15; Overseas: 4, Indian-11
List of Retained and Traded Players
Clearly, Kings XI Punjab needed quality all-rounders and their back-ups also, after they traded Marcus Stoinis to Royal Challengers Bangalore and released Axar Patel into the auction pool. KXIP seemed short on domestic Indian pacers too and also needed to add a few more international fast bowlers to their arsenal.
The spin department seemed to be settled but with both Ashwin and Mujeeb in contention for spots in World Cup rosters for their respective countries, they needed to go for quality backup spinners too.
The batting order seemed pretty much settled but the addition of a few big names was being expected. KL Rahul seemed to be the only wicket-keeper and hence they needed a quality wicket-keeper too.
Auction Expectation: Quality all-rounders, pace-bowlers and backup options for all departments
Amount Spent: Rs 32.60 Crore
Budget Left: Rs 3.60 Crore
Total Number Of Players Bought: 13 (4 Overseas and 9 Indians)
List of Players Bought
They have added only Sarfaraz Khan and Agnivesh Ayachi as the specialist batsmen for this season. Sarfaraz will get some games but young Ayachi will mostly be seen warming the benches for KXIP.
They had retained most of their batsmen from the previous season and have done the right thing by not picking unnecessary big names in their batting department. So, this is one box they have ticked and things have been sensible in this department.
With KL Rahul already there as one of their wicket-keeping options, Punjab needed to go either for a backup option or pick someone who could take the duties completely off Rahul. While they have invested in the future by picking Prabhsimran Singh for a whopping Rs 4.80 Crore after an intense bidding war, the purchase of Nicholas Pooran for Rs 4.20 Crore seemed to be a really poor one.
Only one player between David Miller and Nicholas Pooran can make it to their starting XI owing to number of overseas player restrictions. So, investing Rs 4.20 crore on a backup player seemed to be needless. They could have easily replicated his big hitting abilities with the likes of Sarfaraz and Mandeep already there. Prabhsimran, who was bough after Pooran, is known for his big hitting prowess too.
Moises Henriques was a value pick for them once again at Rs 1 crore. Considering that they had let Stoinis go, his inclusion was crucial to the balance of their squad. However, the purchase of Sam Curran at Rs 7.2 Crore seemed an insensible pick for Punjab once again as it would really make deciding with the starting XI a tough decision. Instead, they should have spent the same amount on Shivam Dube who is almost at par with Curran as far as their all-round capabilities are concerned. In fact, their T20 exploits suggest that Dube is a better batting option than Curran.
Moreover, he could have been a regular face in the starting XI for them too without creating a problem in the team combination. Axar Patel played the same all-round role year after year for them but KXIP made a complete mess of it as they stopped bidding for Patel once the bid reached 5 crore. Delhi Capitals were the team who picked him up and seemed really jubilated with his purchase. Why Punjab did not pursue the all-rounder further is a mystery.
Harpreet Brar, whom they bought for 20 Lakhs, is unlikely to feature in the starting XI this season. Although their choices in the all-round department seem decent, it is an area that they haven’t been able to address as well as they should have.
Pace Bowling Department
This is an area that really needed some attention as Ankit Rajpoot and Andrew Tye were the only retained players. So, Punjab needed to buy some really good domestic Indian players who had some international experience at least. Varun Aaron was one such option. However, they made a joke of themselves once again by investing 4.8 Crore in Mohammad Shami. His T20 statistics haven’t been impressive over the years at all and this seemed to be a completely insensible and unnecessary pick.
The purchase of South African pacer Hardus Viljoen at Rs 75 Lakh seems to be a decent one. However, he will hardly get game time with other preferred overseas options already there.
Arshdeep Singh and Darshan Nalkande are promising young guns for the future but they seem to be a bit too raw for this season. All-rounders Sam Curran and Moises Henriques will need to step in with their performances if Kings XI want to stand a chance of going all the way next season.
The bowling department will look really weak if Andrew Tye, and possibly Mohammad Shami as well, depart for World Cup duties. So, this is one area they are going to struggle with next season.
The spin department was already strong with Ravichandran Ashwin and Mujeeb Ur Rahman already there and it is even stronger now with the inclusions of leg spinner Murugan Ashwin and mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy. The purchased duo will come into play regularly if Ashwin and Mujeeb depart for World Cup duties before the tournament ends.
In fact, the inclusion of Chakravarthy gives KXIP an option to open up one overseas spot to strengthen their all-round and batting department as he can walk in as a like-for-like replacement for Mujeeb in the bowling department. So, this one bold tweak can really sort all their starting XI problems out and they are most likely to go with it. Hence, it can be said that their spin department is the strongest.
Overall Squad Verdict: Average
Predicted Starting XI
- KL Rahul (wk)
- Chris Gayle (o)
- Mayank Agarwal/Karun Nair
- David Miller (o)/ Moises Henriques (o)
- Mandeep Singh
- Sarfaraz Khan/Prabh Simran Singh
- Sam Curran (o)
- Ravichandran Ashwin (C)
- Andrew Tye (o)
- Varun Chakravarthy
- Mohammad Shami