By: Chinmay Vaidya, Aneesh Tyle, Paarth Joshi and Aashay Chavan
The IPL 2021 auction saw some record-breaking buys despite a limited player pool, with big international names like Chris Morris, Kyle Jamieson and Glenn Maxwell raking in the cash. This auction was also important for rising Indian talents such as Krishnappa Gowtham, Shivam Dube and Shahrukh Khan. And if that wasn't enough, a Tendulkar is back in the IPL. Here's our breakdown of the auction results from the best deals to the most confusing moves.
Best Buy of the Auction:
CV: Jimmy Neesham going to Mumbai Indians for 50 lakhs. He's a versatile player who will slot in nicely in Mumbai's lower order while also providing another bowling option for Rohit Sharma. You can never have enough left-handed bats in the order and Neesham provides more punch than Mumbai's other No. 8 options. Throw in his fielding chops and his ability to bowl and you've got a steal at 50 lakhs.
AT: Dawid Malan to Punjab for 1.5 crores. Simply put, he’s the No. 1 T20 batsman in the world and he was bought at an incredibly cheap price. Malan will slot in nicely to a Punjab middle order with Nicholas Pooran and free up KL Rahul to play a more attacking role at the top of the order.
PJ: Malan. At 1.5 crores, he's going to be the best value for his price. Malan brings a strong track record in the T20 format and a No.1 ranking to Punjab and should provide another explosive option for the team at the top with Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul.
AC: Steve Smith or Dawid Malan. Both went for reasonable prices given their talent and both fit well with their respective squads. Smith will be a steady presence in Delhi's high-powered lineup and Malan gives Punjab some great firepower at the top as the ICC's No. 1 T20 batsman.
Worst Buy of the Auction:
CV: Chris Morris going to Rajasthan Royals for 16.25 crores. Morris is a decent player and all-rounders are hard to come by, but this is an insane price for a player who has never topped 200 runs in an IPL season. The Royals have a history of spending big on players who underperform; hopefully Morris can change that trend.
AT: Cheteshwar Pujara to CSK for 50 lakhs. While he’s a cheap buy, Pujara is firmly a Test player and hasn’t featured in Indian limited overs cricket anytime recently. He may perform a similar role to when Delhi got Ajinkya Rahane last year, but any game he plays is a chance taken away from a younger Indian player to develop. He’s better off signed as a coach, rather than a player.
PJ: Jhye Richardson to Punjab Kings for 14 crores. Despite coming off a fantastic BBL, Richardson is still inexperienced when it comes to international cricket and subcontinent pitches. At the price tag he’s gone for, it’s going to be very tough to live up to expectations especially after seeing how highly paid Australian fast bowlers have struggled in the IPL in the past.
AC: Glenn Maxwell or Jhye Richardson. Maxwell's price somehow went up despite a horrendous 2020 IPL campaign and although he's capable of delivering big innings, he's been underwhelming recently. Richardson hasn't appeared in the IPL before and I don't know if he can handle the pressure of a high price tag.
Team with Best Moves:
CV: Delhi Capitals. They bring back the entire group from last year's run to the final, but bolster their secondary international options with Steven Smith, Tom Curran and Sam Billings while also adding Umesh Yadav as a backup pace option. Smith could provide a stabilizing presence in the middle order around Delhi's explosive batsmen if the lineup becomes too volatile.
AT: RCB. Although they got lured into breaking the bank for Maxwell, their overseas buys of Jamieson, Maxwell, and Dan Christian have some of the most upside in the T20 game. After AB de Villiers, their lower order sorely lacked hitting power, which all three can provide. The trio also provides great variety as all-rounders to a previously predominantly Indian bowling attack, which will also be improved since Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar, and Mohammed Siraj all got valuable experience in the recent England and Australia series. This is a team to watch out for if it clicks.
PJ: RCB. They've got big-time names in Jamieson and Maxwell and both will fill important roles for the team which should be in contention for a playoff spot with a strong Indian core and de Villiers coming off a long break.
AC: RCB or Delhi. Despite Maxwell being a costly addition, he's a strong candidate to return to at least average form. Jamieson and Dan Christian will be handy additions in a strong lineup. Delhi solidified their core as well with Smith, Curran and Billings.
Team with Worst Moves:
CV: Plenty of options here, but Punjab Kings made some shocking moves. Despite getting Malan and Fabian Allen for bargain prices, the franchise broke the bank for Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith, Shahrukh Khan and Moises Henriques. Three have never appeared in an IPL match and Henriques last played in the league in 2017. Spending north of 30 crores for the quartet feels risky, especially since one big international buy is going to miss out if Malan and Nicolas Pooran are in the XI.
AT: Sunrisers Hyderabad had a very quiet auction. This team needed Indian batsmen and foreign pacers, but didn’t get either in the auction. Kedar Jadhav may slot into their lineup although he has struggled for a while. Mujeeb bowling in tandem with Rashid is an exciting prospect, but would cost SRH an overseas batsman in their lineup which they desperately need to play. A veteran overseas pacer would be a big boost for an Indian pace attack that is often struck by the injury bug.
PJ: CSK. The team needed to add power hitting at the top, but instead broke the bank for all-rounders Krishnappa Gowtham and Moeen Ali. Suresh Raina coming back in the mix should help CSK a little, but this team still lacks the batting power to make significant noise.
AC: CSK. I have no clue what they are trying to do with that team. MS Dhoni isn't the batsman he once was and the squad showed its age last IPL season. Not sure if Raina returning will make any impact.
Biggest Surprise of the Auction:
CV: The general lack of analytics in the decision-making process. Shakib Al Hasan, possibly the best all-rounder in the world, went for 3.2 crores amid the big spending on Gowtham, Meredith and Maxwell. Malan, the No. 1 ranked T20 batsman, went for 1.5 crores while backups and unproven talent went for far greater prices. Sunrisers bought Mujeeb for 1.5 crores, but how many games will he get with David Warner, Kane Williamson, Rashid Khan and Jason Holder likely to be in the first XI? Jason Roy, Alex Hales and Glenn Phillips all carry T20 strike rates around 140.00. All three went unsold.
AT: Alex Hales going unsold. He’s one of the most dynamic top order batsmen in limited over cricket, especially in T20 cricket. Hales hasn’t played international cricket recently due to issues with the ECB, but he always performs in domestic tournaments. He would slot into most teams’ opening pair if bought.
PJ: Krishnappa Gowtham going to CSK for 9.25 crores. Given his fellow cast, there is not much firepower around him to make Gowtham look like he deserves his paycheck. CSK will be stretched again to score big runs and that will not bode well for his outlook, especially with his limited IPL match experience.
AC: Chris Morris going for 16.25 crores when his base price was 75 lakhs is the height of reckless bidding. Aaron Finch and Jason Roy going unsold is also surprising given their international track record in the format.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj all made contributions in India's 2-1 Test series victory over Australia, giving hope to emerging players who get their start in franchise T20 leagues that a jump to the international level is possible in any format. That India group made the leap from the IPL to international Test cricket and performed fairly well. This discovery largely happened by accident after most of India's starting XI suffered injuries and Virat Kohli removed himself after the first Test due to the birth of his child. Despite having little experience in the Test format, these five were able to translate the franchise T20 game to a new format. Rishabh Pant, another IPL star, was the run machine for India during the last two Tests. He's the best example of the benefits of franchise cricket.
These benefits aren't exclusive to India. Australia has its own franchise T20 league in the Big Bash and with it comes a new crop of players ready to make their mark on the international stage. Many of these young stars will be on display in the playoffs.
Defending champions Sydney Sixers are once again in a prime position to lift the trophy thanks to Josh Philippe. The 23-year old followed his 487-run campaign from last year with 454 runs in the regular season while improving his strike rate from 129.9 to 149.3. Philippe was disappointing in the IPL bubble, but he's bounced back nicely in familiar conditions. He'll be part of Australia's T20 tour of New Zealand.
Jake Weatherald is another improving T20 batsman capable of producing runs in bunches. The 26-year old put together his second consecutive 400-run season and fourth consecutive 300-run season while improving his strike rate to 143.7. Weatherald will be the key for the Adelaide Strikers to spring a surprise from the bottom of the playoff bracket.
The top four leading wicket-takers from the Big Bash regular season will also be in the playoffs. Jhye Richardson isn't new to the international scene with two Tests, 13 ODIs and nine T20Is under his belt but the Perth strike bowler had to wait nearly a year between ODIs and will wait nearly two years to make another T20I appearance. He's in the squad for the T20 tour of New Zealand, but he'll look to add more wickets in the playoffs and a title for Perth.
Tanveer Sangha will also be joining Australia's tour of New Zealand after racking up 21 wickets for the Sydney Thunder in the regular season. The 19-year old legspinner will likely be brought along slowly and will look to Adam Zampa for additional tips. Wes Agar, younger brother of Australia regular Ashton Agar, has made his case for a call-up with 21 wickets for the Strikers this season. Unlike his older brother, Wes Agar is a right-arm fast bowler and will likely have to wait in a long line of young Australian pacers.
Mark Steketee will look to follow the path of India's IPL stars when joining Australia's Test squad for the South Africa tour. The 27-year old pacer has been Brisbane's top wicket taker and is a big reason why the Heat are in the playoffs after a disappointing finish last season. He'll face off against Wes Agar and Weatherald in the bottom of the playoff bracket. Elsewhere, Philippe will have to contend with Richardson in the first qualifier while Sangha awaits the winner of Adelaide-Brisbane.
Philippe, Richardson, Sangha and Steketee are getting international looks after strong Big Bash campaigns. Look for Weatherald, Wes Agar and other young Australians to join the mix soon as the board taps into a rich domestic talent pool.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to stifle activity around the world, sports are pushing through the storm and cricket is no different. After successful conclusions of the CPL and IPL, the cricket world will now head to Australia and New Zealand as those countries begin their respective summers in late November. There will be one big difference: fans will be in the stadium.
Australia and New Zealand have had major success in containing the pandemic. Australia has under 28,000 cases to date, averaging between 6 and 31 cases per day for the last month. New Zealand has been ever more successful, seeing under 5 cases per day from May through early August before the virus returned. Now the country is between 0-25 cases per day in the last month. Compared to the rest of the world, these two countries have worked miracles.
With India set to tour Australia and the West Indies headed to New Zealand, early reports suggest stadiums will operate at some capacity. Cricket Australia has suggested having as many as 25,000 fans in the stands with adequate distancing measures in place. With the Big Bash also set to take place, that number might have to decrease to ensure protocols are followed. The last thing either board wants to deal with is an outbreak.
India and the West Indies have arrived at their respective locations to begin the quarantine process. The CPL went on without a problem as no players tested positive for COVID-19 during the tournament. The IPL had a minor issue in Chennai's quarantine period, but the rest of the tournament went smoothly. Testing is no longer an issue for the players and boards involved. The opportunity to recoup lost revenue during the early days of the pandemic outweighs the cost of putting on tours. Cricket in bubbles has been safe, but is it sustainable for the players?
England captain Eoin Morgan and Windies skipper Jason Holder have said 'no' outright, citing the additional mental and emotional toll of tours now being supplemented with a quarantine period and limited interaction with the outside world. England had to complete some tour in the summer to avoid major revenue losses; Australia and New Zealand will make the same case when they host their tours. But the idea that cricket can continue to go on from bubble to bubble is starting to wear on the players, especially those who will potentially take part in three T20 tournaments from September to February once the Bash begins.
This is India's first tour in the pandemic and those players will have a strong voice on the issue, especially after undergoing a bubble experience in UAE for the IPL. Cricketers were already discussing the impact of the lack of fans from the pandemic's early days, but those T20 franchise leagues thrive on crowd energy. Bubble cricket for those leagues seems to actually take away from the product.
Of course the safety of everyone involved, fans included, is paramount to any board's decisions when conducting tours. Protocols will be followed until there is a vaccine effectively deployed around the world. But cricketers will make their voices heard on the struggles of going from one bubble to the next, leaving some to potentially cut their careers short by withdrawing from tours to avoid the prospect of another bubble.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It took nearly four months for international cricket to return to action, but the wait is finally over.
England and the West Indies will kick off a Test match series July 8 despite the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting the global population. This will be the first international match since Australia played New Zealand for one ODI behind closed doors on March 13 before scrapping the rest of the series.
That match took place in the early stages of what would become the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, New Zealand and Australia have shown major progress in containing the virus. New Zealand has effectively stamped out the virus and life in the country is back to normal. The United Kingdom has also shown significant progress, although there are still strong restrictions in place.
Cricket inherently lends itself to maintain social distancing. Aside from fielders in the slips, the bowler running up next to the non-striker and the wicketkeeper standing up close to the stumps for a spinner, cricketers are inevitably standing at least six feet apart in the field. This doesn't mean cricketers and staff won't be tested regularly. And of course, there won't be fans in the ground.
England's World Test Championship set with the West Indies precedes a Test series with Pakistan and a white-ball scrap with Australia. A handful of Pakistan's cricketers recently had a bout with COVID-19, but the board has gone ahead with the tour. England is confident the series with Australia will take place.
Unfortunately, this resumption of play hasn't taken off globally. New Zealand's August visit to Bangladesh has been scrapped and India is unlikely to stage the IPL given the logistics of bringing cricketers in from around the world while the country's coronavirus cases rise. The CPL held its auction, but the league will have to wait and see if going forward with the tournament is plausible.
Because cricket's calendars are so interconnected, a disruption on this scale has long-standing effects. There are ODI series directly linked to team's qualification chances for the 2023 World Cup. The World Test Championship has postponed matches. Those tours must be completed given the stakes. And then there's franchise leagues and the T20 World Cup.
The ICC has yet to make an official decision on the T20 World Cup scheduled for Australia in October, but it is unlikely to take place given the international hurdles. That open window would be a chance for countries to complete their unfinished series, but players will want to play in franchise leagues to make up for a lost earnings. That possible showdown will be thrilling to watch. And all this will happen without fans in stadiums, further diminishing revenue for boards already in a crunch.
For now, all eyes will be on England and the West Indies. The future of the sport is still uncertain.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
After ranking all the World Cup champions based on their respective tournament runs, I thought it was only fair to rank the teams who had a shot at the title but fell short. After all, these teams were also pretty damn good and deserve some recognition.
I'm using the same metrics from the previous exercise and applying it to World Cup teams with a legitimate shot to win the title. What is deemed as a "legitimate" chance is a subjective measure, but I think the reasonable expectation would be to include the runner-up and the semifinalist which lost to the eventual champion. Since every World Cup has a semifinal round, this gives us at least some consistency throughout the process. If your team got knocked out in the quarterfinals to the eventual champion, tough luck. If your team lost to the runner-up in the semifinal, tough luck.
Using the above cutoff measure gives us 24 total teams to evaluate using run differential per game, number of all-time great players and win percentage. A quick note on win percentage: runner-up teams get an extra win and loss over the semifinalist flameout by default. Here are the results of that analysis.
Runner-up teams tend to be stronger than semifinalist flameouts, even if the top 10 is split equally. The top five teams to never win a World Cup did make it to the final, but the following five teams missed out after a semifinal loss to the eventual champion.
I apologized to 1999 Pakistan, a team with 11 all-time great players (most in their prime), in the previous exercise. My apology should've gone to 1999 South Africa, which was the better team across the metric on average. It's unknown whether South Africa would've beaten Pakistan in the final, but those two teams were both clearly superior to 1999 Australia and its negative run differential.
Speaking of negative run differential, five of the 24 teams evaluated carried such a mark. The most notable of those teams is probably 2019 New Zealand, which came a reckless overthrow, a faulty Super Over and a nonsensical tiebreaker away from lifting the country's first cricket World Cup. The Kiwis finished the tournament with a -262 total run differential, good for second-last on the list overall. Although 2019 New Zealand was closer to winning the title, the country's 2015 team was vastly superior. A similar thing happened with England's teams from 1979-1992. The 1983 team, the lone one from that quartet to not see a World Cup final, ranks head and shoulders above the rest of the group. Cricket can be a funny game.
It's also interesting to see how teams progress with a similar group of players. 2003 Sri Lanka finished with the worst total run differential of the 24 teams at -317. I know, it's a really bad mark. But Sri Lanka would recover spectacularly in 2007 and 2011, ranking third and first respectively out of 24 teams in total run differential. India's 1996 squad which lost to Sri Lanka in the semifinal featured some members that would be on the 2003 squad. India's 1999 World Cup campaign was a disaster, but the team went from a -104 run differential in 1996 to second overall out of 24 teams in 2003.
2015 India, 2015 New Zealand, 2019 Australia and 2019 New Zealand ran into the same issue their World Cup champion counterparts did when it came to stacking up the all-time greats. These teams didn't have the firepower to match some of the true heavyweights in this category (1999 Pakistan, 2003 India and 2007 Sri Lanka), but they could eventually be looked in a different light once careers finish.
A special shoutout goes to the 1983 West Indies team despite falling to India in the final. That Windies crew, despite the ODI game being relatively new, stacks up pretty well against more recent generational teams from India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. I don't know whether that says more about how strong the 1983 unit was or how underwhelming the West Indies cricket has been since those early World Cups. At least they have some T20 titles.