IPL 2022 auction trends – Core strength, fast-bowling muscle, and unexpected bargains

Every mega IPL auction reveals a bit more about how franchises plan when building a team. ESPNcricinfo looks at some of the major trends from the 2022 IPL auction.

Got wheels and can bat? We’ll pay you a million dollars
“Fast bowlers were definitely the commodity of the auction,” Akash Ambani, Mumbai Indians’ owner, said. He decided to pay more than USD 1 million to secure Jofra Archer, who is not even going to play this season.

This year there were 13 fast bowlers, including fast-bowling all-rounders, who were million-dollar buys. Five of those were Indians. In 2018 (when the dollar exchange rate was INR 64), seven players in that category were paid at least a million dollars of which there was just one Indian player.

The best fast bowlers have always been among the top buys in IPL auctions. However, during this auction the franchises were also on the lookout for fast bowlers who are handy batters too. Deepak Chahar, who has hit a couple of stand-out half-centuries for India in the last six months, entered the auction tipped to be one of the most expensive buys. That prediction came true as he finished as the most expensive Indian bowler at INR 14 crore.

India bowling allrounder Shardul Thakur, another Chennai Super Kings product, missed out on returning to his original franchise after Delhi Capitals snapped him for INR 10.75 crore, the same amount paid by Royal Challengers Bangalore to get back Harshal Patel, the 2021 IPL’s highest wicket- taker who is also a handy bat. Former West Indies captain Jason Holder, who has been in scintillating form recently, was bought by Lucknow Super Giants for INR 8.75 crore. Another West Indies allrounder, Romario Shepherd, who has never played the IPL but can bowl good pace and smack the ball hard, was picked by Holder’s former franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad for INR 7.75 crore.

But it is not mandatory that the fast men need to bat. The franchises also placed big money on bowlers who either have extreme pace – Lockie Ferguson (Gujarat Titans, INR 10 crore), Mark Wood (INR 7.5 crore, Super Giants) – as well those with good pace and bowling smarts, including Prasidh Krishna ( INR 10 crore, Rajasthan Royals), Avesh Khan (INR 10 crores, Super Giants) and Josh Hazelwood (INR 7.75 crore, Royal Challengers).

As Anil Kumble, the Punjab Kings director of cricket, told ESPNcricinfo, “for once this was a bowler’s auction”.

Teams focus on core strength
Successful franchises will agree that auctions are disruptive. Because after investing big money in players who are then looked after well and are assigned key roles, teams are forced back to the drawing board for a mega auction. However, at least four of the eight old franchises focused on retaining the core they had created in 2018 as part of their auction strategy this time. Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Capitals and Sunrisers decided that continuity was what would get them short- and long-term success.

Little surprise that the franchise to sign the largest number of players who were part of their squad last year were defending champions Super Kings, with seven players. This bunch included Deepak, Ambati Rayudu and Robin Uthappa – all of them had played key roles in Super Kings winning the title in 2021. Super Kings also tried hard to get back Faf du Plessis and Thakur but had to quit the bidding race to the rivals with bigger purses.

Super Kings even bought back the uncapped pairing of Prashant Solanki and Tushar Deshpande, who were mostly in the reserves last season.

Knight Riders bought back Nitish Rana, Pat Cummins and Shivam Mavi and tried hard to buy back the uncapped Indian batter Rahul Tripathi, who became one of the million-dollar buys after Sunrisers signed him for INR 8.5 crore (USD 1.13 million). Sunrisers themselves were not shy to bring back Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan and the uncapped pair of Abhishek Sharma and Priyam Garg, all of whom played for them last season.

But it was Capitals who matched Super Kings in bidding aggressively for virtually every player who had been part of their roster over the last two seasons. The fact that four key players from their 2021 batch were in the marquee set of ten did not help Capitals, but that did not dissuade them. Having already retained four players before the auction, Capitals bid hard for Shikhar Dhawan, R Ashwin and Kagiso Rabada in the marquee set and later for Shimron Hetmyer and Avesh Khan. In the case of Dhawan, Ashwin and Hetmeyer, Capitals made the penultimate bid. Even for Avesh, who was Capitals’ second-best bowler last season after Anrich Nortje, Capitals raised the paddle until INR 8.75 crore before Super Giants won the bid at INR 10 crore.

Conservative and high-risk: franchises take different lanes on auction highway
The pattern of spending the purse this time around was very different from previous auctions. Different teams had different strategies to make up their squads. Most teams went heavy on the first day to pocket as many players as possible for their first XI. Super Giants, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Royals and Knight Riders spent in excess of 85% of their purse for 9 to 11 players. Consequently, these teams were keen buyers during the accelerated phase of the auction to cover all the slots as well as get as close as possible to the maximum allowed squad size of 25. Royals bought four overseas players within five minutes at the fag end of the auction at base price.

However, Punjab Kings and Mumbai were both conservative on the first day for different reasons, spending just around 65% of their respective purses. Kings’ strategy was to go big on a couple of marquee players and play the waiting game so that they could spread their purse till the end of the auction. Still, they managed to pick up 11 players on the first day.

This allowed them to buy Liam Livingstone and Odean Smith, two multi-skilled match-winners, at high prices on the second day. In contrast, Mumbai went for the high-risk approach, spending INR 31.5 crore (USD 4.2 million) to secure just three players and a little above half of that figure – INR 16.4 crore (USD 2.2 million) – to get their 18 other players . But if Mumbai remained silent until the accelerated phase, it was because part of their strategy was to bag Jofra Archer and Tim David at high prices. In the end, Mumbai’s recovery was swift and while they might not have the best squad, they still have a decent first XI.

Lesser-known Indians a hit
Shahrukh Khan was bought back by Punjab Kings for INR 9 crore. Rahul Tewatia, too, got the same amount. Tripathi was clinched by Sunrisers for INR 8.5 crore. Knight Riders did not blink to spend INR 8 crore to bring back Rana, who has performed the No. 3 role for them for the past few years. Sunrisers staved off stiff competition to get Punjab allrounder Abhishek Sharma for INR 6.5 crore while India allrounder Deepak Hooda, who got his maiden international cap days before the auction, was picked by Lucknow Super Giants for INR 5.75 crore.

Those were the top five buys among low-profile or emerging Indian talent. The one clear trend to emerge in this auction, and one that might also suggest that the IPL franchises have matured in their strategy, is picking uncapped and fringe Indian talent and willing to pay them more than established Indian names. Shahrukh is recognized as a power-hitting finisher in domestic cricket and has played a big role in Tamil Nadu’s white-ball success in the past few years. Tewatia has not made headlines since that memorable evening in Sharjah where he hit Sheldon Cottrell for five sixes in an over back in 2020, but has the promise of being a good finisher and a decent legspinner.

Tripathi has grown from playing cameos to becoming one of the most consistent Indian batters in the IPL. In 2021, he had a strike rate of nearly 147 in the middle overs (overs 7-15) which was the fourth-highest. As for Abhishek, scouts are impressed by his all-round talent that enables him to float in the batting order and also deliver a few overs of left-arm spin. The potential he has for growth is what compelled Sunrisers to pay him more than ten times the price they paid him in 2018 (INR 55 lakhs).

Another name that can be added to the list is Punjab left-arm spinner and lower-order batter Harpreet Brar. remember him? Brar, playing for Kings, silenced Royal Challengers’ top order last IPL by picking up Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell off successive deliveries and AB de Villiers in his next over. He can also smack the ball hard and that is what Kings are likely to have kept in mind before they shelled out INR 3.2 crore to buy him back. Kumble told ESPNcricinfo that the franchise did not think of filling up the eighth overseas spot because they had placed their belief in players like Atharva Taide, an uncapped 21-year-old from Akola in Vidarbha. Taide is an opening batter who bowls handy left-arm spin and impressed scouts during the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali tournaments last December.

This approach of paying more to fringe talent is also another indicator of the vast pool of Indian players that keeps getting stronger. Not only will it make lesser-known players get exposure and big money, but also limit teams’ over-reliance on overseas players.

How auction draw created bargain buys
Bargains are what make markets dynamic. You can get lucky in the IPL auctions, too, if a player comes up at the right time and you have the money and are proactive. Take Capitals, for instance. They knew they could not get all the four players who played for them in 2021 and were part of the marquee set this time. In fact, they got none of them, but bagged the prize catch of David Warner for just INR 6.25 crore. Warner is one of the IPL’s greatest players and was expected to become a multi-millionaire. In Warner, Capitals have found an opener who can play the aggressor or drop anchor, a proven IPL-winning captain, and an ace fielder. Also, his report with head coach Ricky Ponting will come in handy. Importantly, Warner and Prithvi Shaw could be one of the IPL’s best opening pairs in the powerplay.

A conservative approach from a fair few franchises also ended up affecting the price points of players, especially up front. R Ashwin was bagged by Royals for INR 5 crore, Quinton de Kock went to Super Giants for INR 6.75 crore. Titans might have seemingly had a scrambled auction plan, but they would have been happy to get Jason Roy at his base price of INR 2 crore.

Supply and demand can always skew the auction dynamics. If the pool for a certain skillset is shallow, one odd player can get an exponential price. This auction featured a lack of quality Indian wrist spinners. Yet, it came as a bit of surprise when Rahul Chahar, Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav were acquired at INR 5.25 crore, 6.5 crore and 2 crore respectively. Similarly, as the auction entered the accelerated phase, the likes of Alex Hales, Evin Lewis, Tymal Mills and Jason Behrendorff – performers in overseas franchise cricket – were all bought at significantly low prices.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo. Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo

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