T20 is a game of uncertainties. Add to that some questions over dates, venues and availability of players, we have a totally unpredictable IPL auction. Auctions in the past have been usually held after mid-January. With the World Cup in sight, IPL will be played earlier than usual and hence the auction was also advanced by a few weeks. But the timing of this auction rendered the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, India’s domestic T20 tournament, pointless. The onus was hence on the teams to scout talents from local leagues around the country which resulted in some jaw-dropping money to some of the uncapped Indian players. We look at RCB’s performance at the IPL 2019 Auction.
At first glance, RCB look to have plugged most holes they went into the auction with. They had a strange trade window, letting go of one of the leading WK-batsmen in the world in Quinton de Kock to Mumbai Indians for just Rs 2.8 Cr and an assured middle order Indian batsman Mandeep Singh for Marcus Stoinis, who won’t even be available for the entire tournament owing to World Cup preparations. They also let go of IPL stalwart Brendon McCullum and were left with no wicket keepers other than Parthiv Patel. These releases also meant RCB were looking for an opener as well at the auction.
The first player RCB bought in the auction was Shimron Hetmyer who was expected to attract big bucks. Hetmyer had a stellar audition for IPL auctions when West Indies toured India last month scoring 259 runs in 5 games at a strike rate of 140+. RCB is known to chase big players at auctions but they haven’t necessarily borne fruits on the field. But was it worth going for Hetmyer even if he didn’t cost a fortune? An alternative would’ve been Nicholas Pooran who not only possesses a similar hitting prowess to Hetmyer but also doubles up as a wicket-keeper. A chance missed to ideally replace Quinton de Kock perhaps? Maybe.
RCB’s next buy was Gurkeerat Singh Mann. He replaces his state-mate Mandeep Singh in the RCB middle order. Gurkeerat hasn’t set the tournament on fire in any of the past seasons but is a handy all-rounder in good form currently. RCB also added some more Indian batsmen to the middle order with purchases of Akshdeep Nath, Delhi batsman Himmat Singh and all-rounder Milind Kumar.
The highlight of IPL auction was tipped to be the bidding war for Shivam Dube. The burly southpaw has hogged the limelight this season in domestic circuit with some audacious batting performances in the Mumbai T20 league and all-round display for Mumbai in his debut Ranji Trophy season. Known for his big hitting, Dube will play a key role in finishing games in the fragile RCB middle order. He also lends balance to the team with his medium pace bowling and will complement Stoinis as the 5th bowler.
Heinrich Klaasen was a late pick but getting an international keeper for 50L is a bargain. He provides a backup keeping option to Parthiv Patel and also adds to the middle order’s hitting strength.
The Future Stars
RCB also invested in youth buying two players who have taken big strides in the U-19 team this season. Devdutt Padikkal is an 18-year old, highly rated opener who debuted for Karnataka this season in the Ranji Trophy. He played a match-winning knock in the 4th innings chase against Maharashtra. Another young gun RCB have roped in is 16-year old Prayas Ray Barman. A leg-spinner by trade, he caught attention with a 4-wicket haul on debut for Bengal vs Jammu & Kashmir in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Both these players may not be match-ready just yet, but RCB will be happy to have the youngsters grooming at the franchise.
Going by past performances and current form, RCB are likely to go in with 3 fast bowlers, 1 spinner and 2 all-rounders. Two areas RCB struggled last season were the death overs of each innings. Big spending on Dube reflects the faith RCB have put in the youngster to deliver the finishing blows. Mohammed Siraj will most likely be handed the death-bowling duties along with Coulter-Nile or Southee. Both Stoinis and Moeen will leave the tournament early for World Cup preparations but Hetmyer and Klaasen are expected to last the distance.
They also have good backups for all positions except another experienced opener and an Indian wicket-keeper. While Padikkal is a great talent, his inexperience may haunt them if they go on a bad run. They also seem a bit top-heavy like every season. Lack of reliable Indian middle-order batsmen may be an area of concern. No matter how many resources you have in the bag, everything depends on how you pick and we hope Kohli (or ABD) picks his teams well this time around.