IPL 2017 Squads & Auction Review – World Cricket Chat Episode 71

Suneer Chowdhary and Shruti Chopra review the 2017 IPL squads after today’s Auction which saw 66 players sold in which 27 were overseas players. In fact, 4 English players fetched 32.7cr rupees whereas 19 Indian players got 19.45cr rupees. Have a listen to their review or read excerpts of their conversation below.

Your first thoughts on the Mumbai Indians and the squad they have for this IPL?

Mumbai Indians bought one or two players for each position – batsmen, fast bowlers, spin bowlers, keepers and all-rounders and will be reasonably satisfied with what they did. Am quite happy to see Mitchell Johnson back in the side after being released from the Mumbai Indians line-up in 2013. Saurabh Tiwary also returns back to where he started his career and gives the side a domestic batting option. I also think it was high time the Mumbai Indians brought in a proper spinner into their line-up and that’s exactly what they have done with Karn Sharma…Harbhajan Singh could still remain the first-choice spinning option but Karn Sharma could come in as and when the situation demands.

Mitchell Johnson comes back to Mumbai….

I like that move…in fact I was surprised they had let him go in 2013 and his presence will add a lot of firepower to the side. I do understand Mitchell McClenaghan has been fairly successful but Johnson’s recent showing in the Big Bash League gives me a lot of hope for the Mumbai Indians, especially given he will have Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga alongside him in the bowling department.

What do you make of Mumbai’s opening combinations? Have they been able to sort them out?

I think they are quite good in that area, Rohit Sharma, Jos Buttler, Lendl Simmons and Parthiv Patel can all take up that spot when needed. To begin with, I think, Rohit and Buttler should open the innings while Simmons can come in once Buttler leaves for national duties, and even down the order, if Kieron Pollard doesn’t get going or has any fitness issues, they have brought in Asela Gunaratne who has shown recently even in Australia he can do what Pollard can with the bat and ball.

You are a Rahul Dravid fan…what do you make of the Daredevils side for this season?

The Delhi Daredevils team continues to have that stamp of Rahul Dravid all about it. Especially the batting line-up which has a plethora of youngsters and fringe domestic cricketers like Mayank Agarwal, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant, Ankeet Bawane and Aditya Tare. Carlos Brathwaite and Chris Morris were good picks last season but both could have national commitments in the middle of this season which is why the presence of Angelo Mathews and Corey Anderson will help. It will also give both Mathews and Anderson a chance to get fit before they get brought in…

South African, Kagiso Rabada must be a special addition to the squad?

Kagiso Rabada is a match-winner of his own which adds a lot of fire-power to the bowling and he is one of the chief reasons why South Africa is the number one ODI side in the world today. He averages 26 and 22 with the ball in ODIs and T20I and is an exciting addition to the IPL. He could leave for South African national duties later but even after that, there is a good replacement in Pat Cummins waiting in the wings. Yep, I think Rabada will start before Cummins but the Aussie speedster could come in as a replacement when the form or fitness demands.

Moving on to the two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders, what are your first thoughts?

Kolkata had a strong core of Indian batsmen and with Chris Lynn showing the kind of form he has recently, needed just one more as a back-up and found it in Darren Bravo. Must say they could have gone for someone like Alex Hales or a Ross Taylor or even a Ben Dunk – all of whom sound more suited to this format of the game. That aside, they have reposed their faith in their existing spinners and instead chose to bolster their pace bowling line-up – bringing in three medium-pace all-rounders and two pace bowlers apart from another unheralded medium-pacer in Sayan Ghosh.

Lot of that could be do with the fact that the Eden Gardens has a relaid surface which means there won’t be any of the previous slow and low bounce on it, thereby making it a flat, batting pitch.

Would Chris Woakes fill in the obvious Andre Russell void?

Andre Russell will be a huge blow after he was suspended for a year for an anti-doping violation and Gambhir would need the likes of medium-pacers Chris Woakes and Rishi Dhawan to provide him with some batting buffer down the order that Russell did. I would put Woakes as a slightly better bowler than Russell but the West Indian is a far better late-order hitter than most around the world, which is where KKR could miss him a lot.

One other thing that strikes me is the lack of wicket-keeping options for Kolkata. There’s Robin Uthappa and Sheldon Jackson, who again isn’t a high-level keeper at that stage and then there’s no-one else. KKR are probably hoping things don’t go too wrong and if they do, they will be allowed to call upon someone but surely could have added someone at their base price.

Surely…surely the Royal Challengers Bangalore have enough in their tanks to win the IPL for a change?

They had a golden chance to do that last season, Shruti…looking at this year’s auction, Royal Challengers Bangalore refused to fiddle around with their batting and why would you want to do that when you have the likes of Kohli, Gayle, de Villiers, Watson and KL Rahul, not to mention Kedar Jadhav, Sarfaraz Khan and Travis Head in their line-up. As a result, Bangalore didn’t add any new batsman to their line-up, instead focussing their attention on their pace bowling department after losing Mitchell Starc yesterday and Tymal Mills is a good choice in that respect.

Tymal Mills – specialist T20 player – it’s been mentioned that he’ll probably be hit back as fast as he bowls – but he must be a better option than Chris Jordan who was in RCB last year..?

Fast bowler Tymal Mills is a worthy replacement and while Billy Stanlake hasn’t had a great start to his international career, he will provide the necessary backup. I know you aren’t much of a fan of Jordan but he looked to be a much-improved bowler during the ODIs and T20Is against India, plus the Chinnaswamy Stadium has never been kind to bowlers in the white-ball format.

Must also quickly add that Pawan Negi comes in for a much lower cost than he had last season and he will fight for the second spinner’s spot in the XI with Iqbal Abdulla, to partner Yuzvendra Chahal in the line-up.

Do you think the Gujarat Lions can maintain the kind of form they had shown last season? What are your first thoughts looking at the auction today?

The Gujarat Lions brought back Akshdeep Nath after having released him before the auction and there were other minor additions to the batting like UAE player Chirag Suri and Shubham Agarwal but their biggest pick was Jason Roy who will add a very a strong aggressive option at the top of the order.

Problem for Gujarat is they have far too many overseas batsmen in their squad – McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch and now Roy, with Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner also a part of their foreign line-up. Which is probably why they have compensated by going for plenty of Indian bowlers like Nathu Singh, Basil Thampy, Shelly Shaurya, Munaf Patel and Manpreet Gony to go with their existing speedsters in Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar and Pradeep Sangwan.

They have a decent squad I think but I wonder if they could have gone in with an established Indian name in their batting – someone like a Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhinav Mukund or S Badrinath…Pujara is a Saurashtra player too, a local and that might have been an added bonus.

You spoke about Roy…does Jason Roy looks like a sure shot opener for you till the time he’s available or would he need to be rotated so that once he’s missing, they have a set replacement? And who would that opening replacement be?

Naah, naah, nothing sure shot about Roy being an opener. Look he has proven white ball pedigree but as I said, the team has McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Aaron Finch, all of whom have much more experience at this level, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Roy is just a backup opening batsman. Dwayne Smith adds a bowling option too, so I will probably have Smith and McCullum at the top and then two players out of Roy, Finch, Faulkner and Bravo depending on form and fitness.

Manpreet Gony has been in and out of the IPL – in fact he’s even left cricket for sometime, but today, he was bought by the Gujarat Lions – do you see him making a comeback?

Gony’s in with a chance because he has been among the wickets but then so is Basil Thampi who has been spoken of highly even before the auction because of his pace and bounce. Exciting times ahead for the pace bowling department, especially for those who want to have a look at the upcoming Indian fast bowling talent.

Moving over to the Rising Pune Supergiants, are you happy with what you see?

I am not sure if the Rising Pune Supergiants have thought through every move of theirs carefully. To an extent, I can understand their decision to sack MS Dhoni after what transpired last season but what were they doing during the auction? Buying Ben Stokes might have been a coup of sorts but it came at a cost – a price of Rs.14.5 crore and that, to an extent tied their hands away during the auction.

The only reserve batsman they bought was Manoj Tiwary and there was no back-up keeper brought in either. They might have missed a trick in not bringing in an Indian pace bowler, probably even someone like Ishant Sharma. What Pune will need during the season I feel is to get into some sort of a momentum with the given set of players – i.e. for Rahane to strike the kind of form he had with Rajasthan, Smith to showcase his best T20 efforts, Dhoni and Stokes to excel as finishers, Ashwin to be able to display the same control he has win the red ball and Ishwar Pandey and Ashok Dinda to play their roles as fast bowlers. Tough to see majority of them succeeding at the same time.

The biggest talking point has to be Rs. 14.5cr spent on Ben Stokes by RPS despite him not being available for the entire IPL – I believe they spent 82% of their budget. Is that kind of a spend justified?

On the one hand, you do want to go for a player like Ben Stokes who can give you a lot with the bat, ball and in the field but on the other, you also need to see if all your bases are covered. And I am not sure that’s the case for the Supergiants. For Pune to justify buying a player at that cost, they need him to be a match-winner of his own – bat or ball – dish out performances like a Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers or a Virat Kohli at their respective peaks and if he can do that, then well, it will shut a lot of us critics up!

Do you think the Kings XI Punjab have the squad to shrug off their previous performances and push into the playoffs?

Kings XI Punjab finished at the bottom of the points table last season but they have stuck to their guns and decided not to splurge during the auction. They were left with a purse of Rs.13.9 crore, the most for any team and despite that they have a team that could provide a surprise or two.

Look I know teams will be handicapped by the loss of England players when they leave for their national duty but Eoin Morgan’s selection was a good call given his recent form. The one thing in Morgan’s favour is he has been playing this format of the game in India and UAE recently and has shown good form, not to mention helping the Thunder win a game during the Big Bash League. Darren Sammy has been brought in as some sort of a backup for Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis but who knows Punjab might even play both Maxwell and Sammy in the finishing role.

What do you make of the rest of their squad?

Punjab have also bolstered their pace bowling department, something that might have been lacking firepower, bringing in Varun Aaron and Matt Henry, which means they might play them ahead of Anureet and Shardul – two very quick bowlers as opposed to medium-pacers. T Natarajan is an unknown quantity again but his left arm bowling will help the side. He has had his time out becoz of a suspect action, but has come back and had a good TNPL season with 10 wickets from seven games and with an ER of 7.33.

T Natarajan – quite a story there, started with a base price of 10L and ended with 3cr – he comes from quite a humble background – this must be a special day for him.

Yes, one of the few during this auction and it will now be up to him to show the kind of performance that can consolidate his position in the side. He is a death overs specialist, loves bowling those yorkers at will and should make for an exciting watch. You know what’s also changed in recent times is that there are these BCCI-approved local, state T20 leagues that have sprung up like the Tamil Nadu Premier League, Haryana Premier League, Karnataka Premier League and so on and the cricketers those who perform at that level have a good chance of getting a call-up to the IPL, making them a good feeder to the tournament.

Last, but not the least, the defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad. What’s your take on their squad?

Someone pointed out to me on Twitter that the Hyderabad batting might be over-reliant on David Warner but there are others like Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh and Deepak Hooda in the line-up as well. They could have brought in an additional overseas T20 batsman like a Martin Guptil or Andre Fletcher, but I still think Kane Williamson can do the job in his own way if he can strike early form.

Defending champions Hyderabad released two batsmen from their line-up after their last season, Eoin Morgan and Aditya Tare and brought in Mohammad Nabi and Tanmay Agarwal, while also selecting Pravin Tambe for Karn Sharma, so in that sense they seemed to have picked like for like replacement. Quite surprised they doled out Rs.4 crore on Rashid Khan but I must quickly add that the Afghan is an excellent leggie and with proper development could also become one of the players to watch out for in the world.

You’d pointed out the fact that the Sunrisers have so many pace bowlers – we have come to understand that Mustafizur Rahman and Barinder Sran are not too fit – so yes they have tried to strengthen that area, but how well do you see the new buys fitting into the scheme of things?

Their pace bowling department is the most striking feature of the HYderabad side, so replete with names that as I tweeted earlier, it can form its own playing XI. If I include Moises Henriques, there are 12 medium-pacers in the side, and while I understand some of them might not be available for the entire length of the tournament, it’s still crazy to think how difficult it would be for the management to prune the list down to 3 or 4 for the final XI.

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