IPL 2022: Who will be the 20 smartest buys at the mega-auction?

Bengaluru - Here’s a selection of who could be the smartest buys at the two-day IPL auction starting at 11 am IST on Saturday, in Bengaluru

By Sumit Chakraberty

Published: Thu 10 Feb 2022, 8:26 PM

The Indian Premier League (IPL) had a reach of nearly 400 million viewers at its peak in the last season spread across two legs in India and the UAE. It shows why Star India, which holds the IPL media rights till the end of the current season, paid Rs 16,347 crore ($2.18 billion) for it in 2017. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is expected to rake in at least twice as much when the rights for the next five-year cycle are auctioned.

The cash-rich league attracts the top players from around the world. The 20-over format makes for easy consumption. But an equally important aspect of what makes the IPL so alluring to cricket lovers is its level playing field.

Every franchise gets the same purse to acquire players in an open auction, regardless of how rich the owners are. This ensures the sides are evenly matched and most games are well-contested.

And yet, smarter selection and leadership led to two franchises, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, winning nine of the 14 titles so far.

This was evident from the very outset of the IPL in 2008 when Shane Warne-led Rajasthan Royals won the title despite being the stingiest with its purse.

Over the years, all the franchises loosened their purse strings, knowing they had more to gain by winning the title than savings at the auction. This year the competition will be even fiercer with the addition of two franchises, Ahmedabad-based Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants. Now 10 teams will vie for the top four positions in the league to qualify for the playoffs.

Therefore, the IPL mega auction this weekend will draw as much attention as any final or opening game of the league. It will set the strategy for each franchise not just for this season but for the next two as well. Every three years, most of the players are released back into the auction pool, whereas the intervening years have smaller auctions to provide a window to induct new players.

The existing eight franchises were allowed to retain up to four core players and each of the two new franchises was given the opportunity to acquire three players from the pool of released players ahead of this year’s mega auction.

That leaves a lip-smacking array of stars released by their franchises for the auction. Indian players are generally more in demand because only four foreign players can be included in the playing 11 of an IPL team. The hottest picks, going by recent form, would be batting stars Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer, wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan, all-rounder Harshal Patel, spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Rahul Chahar, and pace bowlers Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur, Prasidh Krishna and Avesh Khan.

The 220 foreign players in the list of 590 for the action is also studded with hot properties. Our top picks among them would be batting stars David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Faf du Plessis, Rassie Van Der Dussen, Shimron Hetmyer, Devon Conway, and Jason Roy, wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock, all-rounders Mitchell Marsh and Jason Holder, leg-spinners Adam Zampa, Ish Sodhi, and Adil Rashid, and pace bowlers Josh Hazlewood, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult, Kagiso Rabada, Marco Jansen and Alzarri Joseph. Then there are emerging stars like Odean Smith who has already turned heads with his exploits in the ongoing India-West Indies series.

The sheer range and number of choices, along with base price tags stretching from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 2 crore, keeping in mind the limited purse available to each franchise, makes the auction strategy complex. Here’s a selection of who could be the smartest buys at the two-day IPL auction starting at 11am IST on Saturday, February 12, in Bengaluru.


After being out of form in the last IPL season and falling out with Sunrisers Hyderabad, the franchise he led to a title in 2016, David Warner was back with a bang at the T20 World Cup last year. Only six captains have lifted the IPL trophy so far, and Warner is one of them. He will have a point to prove after being benched last year and stripped of captaincy. Kolkata and Bangalore are looking for captains, and possibly Punjab and Rajasthan too. The 35-year-old Aussie may be a poor fit for Bangalore, given a probable clash of personalities with Virat Kohli, but could be a great choice for the other three franchises, as a match-winning opener and an astute captain. The only catch is that he may miss the first two weeks of this year’s IPL as Australia will be on a tour of Pakistan.


Another candidate for captaincy is Faf du Plessis. At 37, he may be at the fag end of his career, but he’s one of the fittest players around and a great fielder. He was the second highest run-getter in IPL 2021, helping CSK win the title. As an understudy of the canny MS Dhoni, and an equally calm head on his shoulders, the former South Africa skipper could be an outlier as an IPL captain or even a good acquisition simply as a reliable opener who averaged over 40 with a strike rate of around 140 in the last two IPL seasons. The best part is that he now focuses on T20 leagues, having retired from the national team.


He led Delhi Capitals to their first playoffs in seven years in 2020 and then got sidelined with injury in 2021, making way for Rishabh Pant, who proved even more successful and was retained as captain. Iyer’s record-breaking Test debut late last year suggests that he’s ready to scale new heights. He’s adept at hitting spinners out of the ground, which will be valuable in the middle overs on Indian pitches where spinners often operate in tandem. The best fit for him could be Bangalore where he can work with Kohli to rebuild the team that has failed to win a single title despite having the world’s two best batsmen, Kohli and AB de Villiers, for several seasons.


He’s 36 but fitter than most others on the field. He had his best IPL season in 2020, averaging 44 and lifting his strike rate to 145 after shifting from Hyderabad to Delhi, where coach Ricky Ponting defined his role better. He top-scored for India in the recent ODI series in South Africa, and is keen to hold on to his spot as ODI opener for India in the 2023 World Cup. His wealth of experience coupled with his current form make it a cinch for any franchise to pick him as an opener, after being released by Delhi Capitals.


A wicketkeeper-batsman is of great value to a T20 team and Quinton de Kock has been a top performer for Mumbai Indians for several years. His performance took a dip last year when he appeared distracted by issues involving the Proteas. But by top-scoring in the recent ODI series in which South Africa beat India 3-0, he appeared more relaxed and ready for a new chapter, having quit the SA Test team.


Ishan Kishan also ticks the box as an aggressive wicketkeeper-batsman. He had an indifferent season last year, except for a crazy 32-ball 84 in Mumbai Indians’ last ditch attempt to boost their net run rate. But he seems like a good long-term prospect, especially in Indian conditions.


England’s Jonny Bairstow was an instant success when he debuted in the IPL in 2019 as David Warner’s opening partner for Sunrisers Hyderabad. He’s a dangerous hitter against both pace and spin, unlike several other English players who have struggled in Indian conditions. He can also keep wickets, which adds another string to his bow.


New Zealand’s most reliable Test batsman after Kane Williamson, Devon Conway showed in the T20 World Cup that he could make an impact in the shorter formats too. As an opener or in the middle order, he’s the ideal sort to play an anchor role while maintaining a healthy strike rate — like a left-handed Williamson. Plus he keeps wickets and takes stunning catches. His IPL debut this year could prove the making of a franchise.


All-rounders are much sought after for the balance they bring to the side. The tall Jason Holder, a former West Indies captain, has been a consistent wicket-taker in the last two seasons of the IPL. He has also been in good batting form, and his long reach can disrupt the length of spinners in the middle order. As a package, he was probably worth retaining by Sunrisers Hyderabad, but now he could be one of the big gainers at the auction.


His performance in the second leg of last year’s IPL showed that India’s selectors were hasty in dropping him from India’s T20 World Cup squad. He had an indifferent tour of South Africa, but came back with a bang against the West Indies on home turf. A wrist-spinner can be a gamechanger on Indian pitches, and Yuzvendra Chahal is a clever operator. He will be an asset to a franchise under a captain who knows how to get the best out of a leg-spinner.


The aggressive Aussie leg-spinner played a key role in Australia winning the T20 World Cup last year. He is yet to make an impact in the IPL but that’s mainly because of lack of opportunity as he has mostly sat on the benches. If a franchise picks him as a wicket-taker and gives him an extended run on helpful pitches, it could pay rich dividends.


Tall and pacy, extracting steep bounce, Alzarri Joseph from the West Indies made a sensational IPL debut in 2019 for Sunrisers Hyderabad, taking six wickets for 12 runs against the eventual title-holders Mumbai Indians. Then he got badly injured. But now he’s back and making even batsmen of the class of Virat Kohli hop in the ongoing series in India. He would be an exciting prospect on some of the new pitches in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Ahmedabad that do have considerable bounce.


The tall speedster from Karnataka, following in the footsteps of Javagal Srinath, appears to be finding his metier, judging from the manner of his four for 12 haul in India’s second ODI against the West Indies this week. He hits the deck, crosses 140 kmph, and mixes it up with slower balls. Kolkata Knight Riders captain Eoin Morgan overreacted in leaving him out of last year’s final after a poor show in a crunch over in an earlier game. Krishna could develop into a fine bowler and be a long-term asset for the franchise that picks him.


Another tall, young bowler knocking hard for entry into the Indian playing 11 is Avesh Khan, who took 24 wickets in last year’s IPL season. Delhi Capitals could not retain him, although the franchise was instrumental in his development. Now he’s up for grabs with a low base price to boot, although a bidding war over him is quite likely.


One of the genuine swing bowlers in India, Deepak Chahar’s extended new ball spell was one of Dhoni’s secrets of success for CSK. He’s handy with the bat too, almost conjuring a win with a late order 54 in 34 balls in the third ODI in South Africa last month. Chennai will surely try to buy him back, but there will be other takers equally keen.


Kagiso Rabada’s wicket-taking, especially in the death overs, was one of the reasons for the revival of Delhi Capitals from 2019. His performance dipped last year, lacking the usual fire, as the international workload and covid bubbles took their toll, prompting his franchise to retain his younger compatriot Anrich Nortje instead. But Rabada regained his mojo during India’s recent tour, and could be a match-winner if a franchise can motivate him to go flat out.


Think of a younger, fitter Andre Russell. That’s the promise of Odean Smith from Jamaica, who bowls at over 150 kmph and packs a punch with the bat that throws bowlers and captains into huddles. Right now, he misses more than he connects, and hasn’t yet figured out a way to thump wily spinners. But if you’re the betting sort, and have a good mentor for him, then Odean’s your man.


With a growing reputation as a cool, hard-hitting finisher on the domestic circuit, the burly six-and-a-half footer from Tamil Nadu could be a smart acquisition. Punjab Kings did buy him in last year’s auction but did not make the best use of him, although he did get the team over the line in a close game over KKR with an unbeaten 22 in 9 balls. He may have the potential to be a Pollard-like big-hitter in the second half of a T20 innings.


Raj Bawa’s five for 31 helped restrict England and give India the under-19 World Cup title last week, earning him the player-of-the-match award. He hits the deck and makes the odd ball rise uncomfortably, being adept with cross seam deliveries. India’s improved performances abroad in recent years have come about with the emergence of fast bowlers in the IPL, and Bawa could be the next in line as he gets stronger.


They’re calling him Baby ABD for his emulation of South African batting wizard AB de Villiers. He set a new record by notching up 506 runs in the under-19 World Cup. A franchise might do well to pick the young gun early.


Another under-19 player that caught the eye was left-arm spinner Noor Ahmad from Afghanistan. The 17-year-old, touted as a left-handed version of Rashid Khan, is the youngest player in the IPL auction, but has already played in Australia’s Big Bash league as well as the Pakistan Super League.

These are just 21 out of the many good players who will go under the hammer at the IPL mega-auction. Ultimately, team composition and home conditions will determine each franchise’s auction strategy. But the 21 picks here are as good as they get.

Sumit Chakraberty is a writer based in Bengaluru. Write to him at chakraberty@gmail.com

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