IPL auction: The crazy money buys don't always pay off | Crickit
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IPL auction: The crazy money buys don't always pay off

Dec 19, 2023 09:56 PM IST

Starc and Cummins were bought for ₹24.75 crore and ₹20.50 crore in this auction, but big buys have rarely led to big performances in the T20 league

When the frenetic bidding for Mitchell Starc finally ended, Kolkata Knight Riders emerged with a winning bid of 24.75 crore. The twice former champions desperately needed pacers and the Australian left-armer fit the bill. But any which way you look at it, this was crazy money. The auction dynamics again came to the fore as a pitched battle between KKR and Gujarat Titans pushed up the asking price way beyond the realm of logic.

Australia's Mitchell Starc celebrates the wicket of India's KL Rahul during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 final match (ICC Twitter)
Australia's Mitchell Starc celebrates the wicket of India's KL Rahul during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 final match (ICC Twitter)

If Starc plays the entire 2024 season, he will get approximately 7.3 lakh per delivery. If that isn't pressure, nothing is. "Humbling to still feel like I'm wanted, or needed, I guess. My gameplay hasn't changed much across formats except a few things here and there. Hopefully the experience can translate to some success," said Starc.

One would imagine that Starc, when he is on his game, fit and not putting country ahead of club, could possibly give KKR the boost they seek. But given the track record of the 'most expensive buys' over the years, he will have to buck the trend in some style.

Take for instance the top earner of the 2023 auction -- Sam Curran. Bought for 18.50 crore by Punjab Kings, his numbers hardly did justice to the faith the team management showed in him. He had a few good games with the bat, scoring 276 runs (S/R 135.96), but his bowling was a huge disappointment (10 wkts, econ 10.22). Certainly not the match-winner Punjab had hoped he would be.

The previous year, Mumbai Indians splurged the big bucks on Ishan Kishan. The 'keeper-batter responded by having an ordinary season, scoring 418 runs but at a strike-rate of just 120.11. His career strike-rate in IPL is 134.26.

Chris Morris was the top buy in 2021 with Rajasthan Royals shelling out 16.25 crore, but his performance was flat -- 15 wickets but at an economy rate of 9.17. The year before, the South African had taken 11 wickets but at an ER of 6.63.

Where Starc is today, Cummins was in 2020 when KKR bid 15.5 crore for him. But in 14 matches, he got just 12 wickets. His economy was fairly decent (7.86), but was it value for money?

The year before that saw the anomaly of Jaydev Unadkat and Varun Chakravarthy ( 8.4 crore) being top of the pile, but the trend remained the same. Unadkat's economy rate in 2019 was 10.66 and Varun played one game. His economy? 11.66.

Ben Stokes has inspired a lot of love in the IPL auction (CSK in 2023 bought him for 16.50 crore, RR in 2018 for 12.5 crore, RPS in 2017 for 14.5 crore), but things haven't quite added up in the league.

Shane Watson was a star performer for CSK in his later years but not when RCB decided to go the whole hog for him in 2016. In 16 games, he made just 179 runs.

Yuvraj Singh was the top pick in 2014 and 2015. Delhi Capitals paid 16 crore in 2015, and the year before RCB parted with 14 crore. The numbers, though, were average in 2014 -- 376 runs, S/R 135.25 -- and dismal in 2015 (248 runs, SR 118.09).

In fact, the last top pick to click was Ravindra Jadeja in 2012 (CSK paid 12.8 crore). He was steady -- 12 wickets at an economy of 7.80 and 191 runs at an SR of 126.49. His form continued to improve over the years, and importantly, CSK showed they were prepared to back him no matter what.

Gautam Gambhir, 14.9 crore, proved a good pick for KKR in 2011 -- not only were they getting a good batter but also a captain who would lift them to titles in 2012 and 2014.

Kieron Pollard, at 4.8 crore, was a steal for MI in 2010 but he stayed with them. Kevin Pietersen (RCB) and Andrew Flintoff (CSK) went for 9.8 crore in 2009. The former scored just 93 runs in six games that season; the latter played three games, which also turned out to be the length of his IPL career.

The best big buy though has to be MS Dhoni in 2008, by CSK for 9.5 crore. They have reaped the rewards ever since. But that wasn't a crazy buy, rather a logical move around which CSK have built a dynasty.

All of this, however, only goes to show that the crazy money may make our jaws drop, it doesn't always pay off. If anything, it rarely ever does.

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