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IPL-2019 auctions: An analysis of the squads

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The auctions for the 12th season of Indian Premier League (IPL ‘2019) concluded recently, wherein a total of 351 players, including 228 Indians, entered the pool. As this season is scheduled tightly, right before the World Cup ‘2019, a large number of potential foreign players backed out before the auctions and even those in the auction-list may have to exit the league early for WC preparations. This eventually impacted the purchases as well, resulting in some big names finding themselves unsold.

As for the Indians on the list, the new generation, especially the under-19 players, earned astonishingly huge packages; whereas some veterans were left either unsold or being bought at meagre prices. Nevertheless, with the retentions, purchases and trade-offs completed – unless there are further trade-offs or players pulling off – we have all 8 teams ending up with squad-strengths ranging from 21 to 25, which makes the equation finely balanced. As we have witnessed over the seasons, the on-field performances tend to deceive the theoretical perceptions; yet, lets have a look at how the teams stack up on-papers.

CHENNAI SUPER KINGS:

The MS Dhoni-led franchise made a roaring comeback in the last season after a 2-year ban, and emerged as the title winners. Having reached atleast the playoffs stage at every season they have played and with 3 titles to their name, they are unarguably the most successful IPL franchise. Their USP has always been the intent to maintain a “core-squad” without too much of chopping and changing, which is evident from the fact that they retained 23 players (the most) from last season and purchased only 2 in the auctions.

Strengths: As always, CSK has vastly experienced international players, both Indian and overseas. A majority of them have spent almost their entire IPL careers in CSK and thus their team-affinity is immense. CSK has perhaps the widest range of all-rounders (Bravo, Jadeja, Watson, Willey, Raina, Jadhav, Santner) – a big boon in T20s – and hence are unlikely to fall short of options in both departments of the game. Dhoni’s captaincy flourishes the most in this format, and his proximity with the core group of players can yet again aid in delivering “team-effort” based performances. On papers, CSK is definitely the most “balanced” side.

Weaknesses: The team lacks young blood, primarily among the core set of players. The very fact that atleast 15 “regularly-featuring” players are aged in the 30s, with the age bracket going upto 39 (Tahir), gives a lot to ponder for CSK in terms of fitness levels and agilities. Although the same set of players delivered a title-win last season, yet this time most of them are either lacking adequate game-practice (Watson, Harbhajan, Raina) or have declined in form (Dhoni, Bravo, Vijay).

Probable Starting XI: 1. Shane Watson, 2. Ambati Rayudu, 3. Suresh Raina, 4. MS Dhoni (wk), 5. Kedar Jadhav, 6. Dwayne Bravo, 7. Ravindra Jadeja, 8. David Willey, 9. Harbhajan Singh / Karn Sharma, 10. Deepak Chahar / Mohit Sharma / Shardul Thakur, 11. Lungi Ngidi

DELHI CAPITALS:

Being perennial under-achievers in the IPL and infamous for “refresh and reload” squad building every season, the Delhi franchise have gone for a name-change and some clever releasing, retaining and purchasing this time. The “Capitals” retained their IPL’18 performers, released those who under-performed, and have recruited a nice mix of Indian and overseas players. Shikhar Dhawan finally gets to play for his “home” franchise and will look to relish the opportunity of being the seniormost batsman in the mix. It’s highly probable he may be granted the captaincy duties this time, and DCS will hope it’s a prolonged stint; since the frequently changing captains have affected the team adversely in the past.

Strengths: We see the DCS squad and we imagine the future of Indian cricket. The team boasts of having perhaps the best mix of youngsters (Iyer, Pant, Shaw, Vihari, Avesh etc), most of them having had a foray into the Indian team already. The youth infact carries the major chunk of the team’s responsibility, and they did it well last season. Dhawan, the most valuable addition, will provide a seasoned and experienced hand to the side; and the overseas pace trio (Boult, Rabada, Morris) looks lethal. The spin attack, with Axar Patel’s addition, now looks equally potent; with Amit Mishra, Rahul Tewatia and Sandeep Lamichhane already in the squad.

Weaknesses: No visible weaknesses, and lets hope DCS do not generate some of their own, as they are habitual of.

Probable Starting XI: 1. Prithvi Shaw, 2. Shikhar Dhawan, 3. Colin Munro / Colin Ingram, 4. Shreyas Iyer, 5. Rishabh Pant (wk), 6. Chris Morris, 7. Axar Patel, 8. Harshal Patel / Rahul Tewatia, 9. Kagiso Rabada, 10. Amit Mishra, 11. Trent Boult

KINGS XI PUNJAB:

KXIP’s 2018 season started with a bang (table-toppers for quite sometime), and they suddenly fizzed out in the 2nd half of the season; so much that they lost all of their last 5 league matches and ended up 2nd last. This stemmed from the fact that their campaign was heavily devoid of team-effort and rode more on individual brilliance. Except Rahul & Gayle (primarily Rahul) in batting and Tye & Mujeeb in bowling, the rest of the team was highly deplorable. Ashwin’s captaincy skills lacked insight, and this time the team management will need to take a call on retaining him as captain or appointing a new one. Owing to their dismal 2018 season, the franchise retained only 9 players, and then invested heavily in auctions; grabbing Sam Curran for 7.2 crore, and some relatively unknown faces like Varun Chakravarthy (8.4 crore – the joint highest buy) and 17-year old Prabhsimran Singh (4.8 crore).

Strengths: KXIP boasts of genuine “T20 specialists” in their side. They have Andrew Tye and Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the bowling department, both experts in containing runs as well as taking wickets; and have KL Rahul and David Miller at their service in batting. The rest of the teams haven’t seen much of Chakravarthy, and he can be a surprise element for the side. Curran, with his all-round skills, is a valuable addition and he can be the X-factor down the order. Henriques is available for the entire season, and can ably replace Curran if the latter departs for WC preparations.

Weaknesses: Having obtained uninspiring results from Miller and Ashwin at captaincy, KXIP will be in a dilemma whether to continue with Ashwin or upgrade someone like Rahul for the job, who in turn, is yet to lead an IPL franchise. Ashwin, having yielded below-par results with bowling the last time, will be a permanent feature if he remains captain; which means one of the “costliest buy” Chakravarthy and the dependable Mujeeb will need to sit out, especially on non-turning tracks. Gayle has been in dismal form in nearly all global leagues, and with age and fitness against him, might not even make the starting XI. Rahul will have to don the keeper gloves again, and being a part-timer at the role doesn’t help his team’s cause.

Probable Starting XI: 1. KL Rahul (wk), 2. Mayank Agarwal, 3. Karun Nair, 4. David Miller, 5. Mandeep Singh / Prabhsimran Singh, 6. Sam Curran, 7. Ravichandran Ashwin, 8. Andrew Tye, 9. Mohd. Shami / Ankit Rajpoot, 10. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 11. Varun Chakravarthy

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS:

The Dinesh Karthik-led team, weakest on papers in the last season, punched well above their weights as they managed to reach the Qualifier-2 match. Karthik led from the front and inspired some valuable teamplay. Though they still have the smallest squad-size at 21, unlike last time they do have decent backups for their core players. KKR have spent heavily on Carlos Braithwaite this time, though it seems unlikely he’ll find a place in the starting XI. Nagarkoti is fit and raring to go this time around, and the young pace battery looks potent.

Strengths: The lower order contains expert finishers in the ever-dependable Dinesh Karthik and KKR’s biggest matchwinner Andre Russell, who now has an able backup in Braithwaite. Narine, in his new-found batting role, is apt to open the batting again and he forms a lethal spin combo with Kuldeep Yadav; with Piyush Chawla to feature as well on turning tracks. There is young blood in both departments, and the likes of Gill, Rana, Mavi, Nagarkoti and Prasidh will look to make a lasting impact. Lockie Ferguson perfectly fills the overseas-pacer void, felt by KKR the last time around.

Weaknesses: All the Indian pacers are uncapped and inexperienced, and may tend to go nervy and erratic upon being attacked, as witnessed in IPL’18. Uthappa, having done wonders for KKR in the past, wasn’t at his best in the last season, and he isn’t doing great in the domestic season either. Narine, though empowered with some batting skills now, has lost the X-factor in bowling and has become fairly predictable of late. Lynn’s struggles against spin will be a concern too.

Probable Starting XI: 1. Sunil Narine, 2. Chris Lynn, 3. Shubman Gill, 4. Robin Uthappa, 5. Nitish Rana, 6. Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7. Andre Russell, 8. Shivam Mavi / Kamlesh Nagarkoti, 9. Kuldeep Yadav, 10. Piyush Chawla / Prasidh Krishna, 11. Lockie Ferguson

MUMBAI INDIANS:

Rohit Sharma, having led his side to 3 IPL titles, was found wanting with the bat the last time around; which in turn produced an ordinary outing for MI in IPL’18. Having won equal titles as CSK, the Mumbai side is undoubtedly their closest rival on the all-time-best list. In the auctions, MI pleased their fans by adding their seasoned campaigner Lasith Malinga again, albeit at his base price; and a late addition in Yuvraj Singh pleased (and provided relief) to cricket fans across the country. To make amends, MI will need to shed their “late bloomers” tag this time, and start winning from the initial stage itself.

Strengths: Quinton de Kock’s addition upscales the opening quotient, and he will surely pip Lewis for the spot in the starting XI. The Bumrah-Malinga combo – if Malinga delivers – is easily the most lethal pace duo among all franchises, and their backups are decent too (Sran, Milne, Mcclenaghan). The Pandya-brothers, along with MI veteran Kieron Pollard, form an enviable lower order. The recent addition of Jayant Yadav strengthens the spin attack as well, as MI now has 3 Indian spinners (Markande, Krunal, Jayant) at its disposal. All said and done, Rohit Sharma still holds the key and if he delivers, there’s simply no stopping this side.

Weaknesses: Yuvraj Singh, with age-form-fitness against him, can struggle to remain a permanent entity in this side, unless he turns his form around. Though he is expected to start at no.4 for the team, if he falters in the first few matches, Rohit will have to bring himself down to the crucial spot, which can unsettle the top-order. Pollard’s form was dismal in IPL’18, and although he has found some form of late, it will be interesting to see his potency against some ruthless spin bowling.

Probable Starting XI: 1. Quinton de Kock (wk), 2. Rohit Sharma, 3. Suryakumar Yadav / Ishan Kishan, 4. Yuvraj Singh, 5. Krunal Pandya, 6. Kieron Pollard, 7. Hardik Pandya, 8. Mitchell McClenaghan / Ben Cutting, 9. Mayank Markande, 10. Lasith Malinga, 11. Jasprit Bumrah

RAJASTHAN ROYALS:

Midway through the last season, Rajasthan Royals seemed destined to finish in the bottom half; but Jos Buttler’s surprise promotion to the opening spot worked wonders for them, as he went relentless and berserk, delivering match-winning knocks almost everytime and enabling his side to qualify for the playoffs. RR looked a bit absurd to first release Jaydev Unadkat, and then pick him up again as the joint-costliest buy (8.4 crore) in the auctions; 3 crores less than his 2018-season price. Steve Smith is back and is retained too, giving indications at him getting the captaincy role again; although there are chances RR may persist with Rahane, who was fairly decent at the job the last time around.

Strengths: The prime overseas players (Smith, Buttler, Stokes) are huge names at the international level, and others like Jofra Archer and Oshane Thomas have made successful inroads in the bowling department in T20s already. There is plenty of uncapped, raw talent; which may spring up some great surprises. Rahane’s consolidating and Samson’s attacking style of play provides good variety in batting. K Gowtham’s successful 2018 stint is a positive sign for this season too.

Weaknesses: The seasoned trio of Smith-Buttler-Stokes can leave midway for WC preparations, and that can create an incurable void in the side. The bowling, though seemingly decent, does not seem penetrative enough, Archer being the only one with “match-winning” potential. The spin department in particular (Gopal and Gowtham) seems restricted, and though RR has the likes of Ish Sodhi, his inclusion will come at the cost of leaving out the big overseas names.

Probable Starting XI: 1. Ajinkya Rahane, 2. Jos Buttler (wk), 3. Steve Smith, 4. Sanju Samson, 5. Rahul Tripathi / Manan Vohra, 6. Ben Stokes, 7. K Gowtham, 8. Jofra Archer, 9. Shreyas Gopal, 10. Dhawal Kulkarni / Varun Aaron, 11. Jaydev Unadkat

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE:

One of the most popular franchises, primarily because it always possesses world’s best batsmen in its arsenal, RCB are astonishingly devoid of a title win, and that stems primarily due to the imbalance in batting and bowling departments. Despite amending this flaw by having a skilled bowling attack in IPL’18, RCB couldn’t solve the “what is the perfect XI” and “which overseas players should play” mysteries throughout, and ended up 6th eventually. This time at auctions, they have managed to rope in the destructive Carribean Shimron Hetmyer, and have invested heavily (5 crore) in the relatively unknown “5-sixes-in-an-over” guy Shivam Dube.

Strengths: As always, the batting, especially the probable top-4, looks rock-solid. Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers are the frontrunners again, and Hetmyer with his power-packed batting skills, will look to make an impact in his debut season. Pace (Yadav, Siraj, Southee, Coulter-Nile) and spin (Chahal, Sundar, Negi) attacks are lethal and the bowling group has adequate backups. All overseas players are proven performers, and hence the replacement-factor is abundant in the side.

Weaknesses: RCB seems to be lacking somewhat in the lower-order “finisher” position, especially among Indians. Although each one of Stoinis, Moeen and de Grandhomme can play that role adequately, yet in all likeliness, only one of the 3 may be a part of the playing XI. ABD, with due respect to his greatness, is retired now and has been average in his home T20 league; hence his form will be significant. Kohli will need to sort out a “settled” playing XI at the very onset, in order to maintain stability throughout the season.

Probable Starting XI: 1. Parthiv Patel (wk), 2. Virat Kohli, 3. AB de Villiers, 4. Shimron Hetmyer, 5. Shivam Dube, 6. Marcus Stoinis / Moeen Ali / Colin de Grandhomme, 7. Washington Sundar / Pawan Negi, 8. Tim Southee / Nathan Coulter-Nile, 9. Umesh Yadav, 10. Mohd. Siraj, 11. Yuzvendra Chahal

SUNRISERS HYDERABAD:

Much like CSK, the Sunrisers retained most of their last season players this time, and it’s obviously a fair call since they were IPL’18 finalists. SRH have always taken pride in possessing the best bowling attack, and they have worked wonders riding on bowling alone in some whole seasons. Hence in the auctions, they picked just 3 players, all batsmen (Bairstow, Saha, Guptill). Warner’s comeback is an enormous boost to the shoddy-looking batting order, which thrived almost entirely upon Kane Williamson’s brilliance in the last season.

Strengths: Bowling, yet again, holds the key for SRH. Rashid Khan, arguably world’s best spinner at the moment, and the newly added Shahbaz Nadeem, form a powerful spin attack; with Shakib too, provided he features among the 4 overseas players. The pace attack is equally potent, and boasts of proven T20 performers (Bhuvneshwar, Sidharth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma). The top order has the luxury to feature 3 impeccable overseas batsmen (Warner, Williamson, Bairstow), who are expected to carry the batting department on their shoulders.

Weaknesses: The middle order looks highly fragile. Pandey, Yusuf and Shakib’s indifferent form in IPL’18 proved to be the chink in SRH’s armour; and to some extent they were prevented from being completely exposed, due to some bowling brilliance from Rashid & co. Under these circumstances, whenever the top-order fails to deliver, SRH may find getting their batting fragilities exposed. Bairstow is deemed to play the keeping job, so that SRH doesn’t have to rely on Saha/Goswami; which eventually means Shakib may have to sit out, despite being the skillful allrounder he is.

Probable Starting XI: 1. David Warner, 2. Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3. Kane Williamson, 4. Manish Pandey, 5. Abhishek Sharma, 6. Deepak Hooda / Yusuf Pathan, 7. Rashid Khan, 8. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9. Khaleel Ahmed, 10. Sidharth Kaul / Sandeep Sharma, 11. Shahbaz Nadeem

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