But then, while Cheteshwar Pujara is an emotional favourite of many after his heroics in Test cricket, Arjun Tendulkar’s inclusion in the IPL auction list had become a point of debate.
So, when Pujara finally got an IPL team – Chennai Super Kings – after seven years, the entire auction room applauded the gesture. “It was a mark of respect for all that Pujara has done for India,” a CSK official told TOI.
A round of applause 👏🏻 at the @Vivo_India #IPLAuction as @cheteshwar1 is SOLD to @ChennaiIPL. https://t.co/EmdHxdqdTJ
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) 1613652983000
Arjun, on the other hand, was the last pick of the day as Zaheer Khan quietly raised the baton to have team mentor Sachin Tendulkar’s son in the set-up after two T20 games for Mumbai.
But before that, a few familiar stories played out. South African all-rounder Chris Morris, with 34 runs and 11 wickets from nine games in IPL-13 for Royal Challengers Bangalore, broke all records to become the highest-paid player of the IPL. Rajasthan Royals, looking to rebuild again, paid 16.25 cr, edging out Punjab Kings in a bidding war. Morris’ price tag went past the Rs 16 cr record that was paid by RCB for Yuvraj Singh in 2015.
“We spoke to Morris before the auction and did a medical review to see if he can last the season. He’s in a bubble now in South Africa and about to play the domestic competition. He will play an important role for us in all phases of the game. He can win us the game with the bat as well and the ball,” said Jake Lush McCrum, RR’s COO. But then, that’s the reason RCB paid Rs 10 cr last time for the 33-year-old, but without much reward.
The auction lived up its tag of being all-rounders’ ticket to big money. New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson was bought for Rs 15 crore by RCB. He had scored a couple of 40s against India in Test matches in 2020 and gave Virat Kohli & Co a difficult time with his pace and bounce. Kohli must have taken a note of that and with Kiwi Mike Hesson as the coach, the decision was made to bring him in.
There was another usual suspect – Glenn Maxwell – who went for Rs 14.25 crore without hitting a single six in the last edition of the IPL in UAE for Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab). But on paper, he is one who can contribute handsomely both with the bat and ball, and that’s what led to a bidding war between CSK and RCB. CSK, quite uncharacteristically went till Rs 14 cr mark for the player, but then gave up as Kohli’s franchise looked for “impact players”.
CSK, desperate for spin-bowling all-rounders, made two smart buys in the form of Moeen Ali (Rs 7 cr) and K Gowtham (Rs 9.25 cr). Gowtham became the highest-paid Indian at the auction. “Moeen can be an opener option too while Gowtham will fill two vacant spots – Kedar Jadhav and Harbhajan Singh,” a source said.
Another big-money buy was Australian pacer Jhye Richardson by Punjab Kings for Rs 14 cr. They needed a pace-bowling partner for Mohammad Shami after releasing Sheldon Cortrell following a hammering by Rahul Tewatia in one of the games last season. “We knew there would be competition for Richardson but we have the team we required,” team owner Preity Zinta, who also acquired England opener Dawid Malan for Rs 1.5 cr, said. Punjab also got Tamil Nadu batsman Shahrukh Khan (Rs 5.4 cr), who was extremely impressive in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
While Rajasthan Royals, RCB and Punjab were doing the heavy lifting due to the purse available with them, Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders quietly went about their business.
The KKR table, which attracted eyeballs due to the presence of SRK’s son Aryan and Juhi Chawla‘s daughter Jhanvi, looked to get some back-up for Andre Russell and brought Bangladesh’s Shakib al Hasan back in the team for Rs 3.25 cr along with veteran offie Harbhajan Singh for his base price of Rs 2 cr. MI, on the other hand, had Nathan Coulter Nile and Jimmy Neesham back as their medium-pace back-up for Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult. SRH, on the other hand, picked up Kedar Jadhav for Rs 2 cr late in the day to add some experience to their middle-order.
Delhi Capitals, too, quietly brought Steve Smith into their line-up for a mere Rs 2.2 crore, but it will be interesting to see how they fit him into a top-order full of Indian stars.
‘Pujara a back-up for Raina’
Pujara’s return to the IPL fold was celebrated by most but there were voices who felt the Test specialist would have been better off playing County instead of sitting on the reserve-bench of CSK for two months. But it’s understood that CSK had a plan in place to get Pujara in and it was not just about respect for the stalwart. “He is a back-up for Suresh Raina, who hasn’t played cricket in a while,” a source said.
The fact that Dhoni wants players who are used to taking pressure is another reason behind Pujara’s inclusion in the squad.