IPL Auction Reaction: Key Talking Points

By Stuart Garlick

The auction for the 2017 Indian Premier League was almost as much fun as the actual cricket promises to be, and there were several signs that the free-market bonanza that Adam Gilchrist once said made him feel like "a prize cow at the village fair" might be changing the cricket world forever. Let's look at the key learning points from the 2017 IPL Auction.

1. Marquee Players Still Matter
One of the treats of the IPL auction is seeing how different teams use their salary allowances, and trying to read between the lines to see why the management teams spent their cash the way they did. The number one headline was Rising Pune Supergiants purchasing the services of Ben Stokes - and not for the whole series - for INR 14.5 Crore, an amount that Stokes even admitted afterwards he did not know was in excess of two million US dollars.

Stokes and Tymal Mills have been transformed by the auction from top-tier international cricketers with a good reputation for contributing to match victories, into global superstars. With that status comes heightened expectation, with fans and management at Pune now hoping to see fireworks each time Stokes bowls or bats. There is also the risk of "tall poppy syndrome," in other words the anticipation causing a backlash. Stokes, at least, is no shrinking violet, so should be able to cope with the heightened scrutiny, although it will be the first such test for the new England vice-captain.

2. Afghanistan & Suri Hit the Big-Time
Just as Afghanistan is busy showing that it is at least a match for Zimbabwe, one of the Test-playing nations, two of the country's top players have got through to the IPL - and they have a reasonable chance of playing, too. Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan will both take pegs in the Sunrisers Hyderabad dressing room, with Rashid, only 18 but one of the world's most promising young bowlers, joining for more than INR 4 Crore.

This is significant, because it widens the IPL's appeal, and shows the ICC once again that Associate teams contain more than enough players to challenge the big boys on a regular basis. It wasn't just the Afghan side that was celebrating, though - over in Dubai, Chirag Suri was watching the auction with his parents, and the three-time UAE international, age 22, will now have a chance to stake a claim to line up in the Gujarat Lions first XI alongside the likes of Brendon McCullum and Dinesh Karthik.

Suri, born in Delhi, told Firstpost, "for me, it’s wasn’t about money, it was just about experience. When that Lions’ bid came through, we were just happy. I didn’t care about another bid. I was just very happy to be a part of IPL. Playing under Suresh Raina and all these players, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

3. Balance is Key
Pune may have blown a large proportion of its cash on Stokes, but he and Mills were merely the highest-profile signings in a typically lavish round of spending. Trent Boult went to Kolkata Knight Riders for INR 5 Crore, while Delhi Daredevils signed Kagiso Rabada and Pat Cummins for INR 5 Crore and 4.5 Crore respectively.

The interesting team to follow is Mumbai Indians, because the team, captained by Rohit Sharma, took a strategy of only spending what it needed to. The biggest signing made was Australian old-stager Mitchell Johnson, who has a chance to bring his death-stare to another bowling attack. Johnson cost only INR 2 Crore, and if he performs as he did in previous editions of the IPL, Mumbai will have a bargain on their hands.

Trinidadian wicketkeeper-batsman Nicholas Pooran is another interesting example of a "Moneyball" signing, with Mumbai's scouts having decided that his limited experience at the top level was balanced out by good performances in the Caribbean Premier League and the Bangladesh Premier League.

Quite often, the big fees are arrived-at under pressure from influential team owners who push their coaches and bidding team to go big on a limited number of stars. Look back at IPL history, and it's clear that often the successful sides are the ones who bid sensible amounts on less-heralded players. Billy Beane had a point.

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