After nine months of tension and excitement, IPL 6 began limbering up for action last weekend with its traditional annual demonstration of unseemly excess. Amidst the mad rush to hurl dollar bills at gyrating Australians, some franchises managed to sneak in the odd bargain buy; before promptly being fined for bringing the tournament into disrepute. Most, however, stuck to the tried and tested method of spending as much money as possible at the first available opportunity.
Pune Warriors, embraced by 51allout after their post-auction efforts last year, were perhaps the worst offenders on auction day this time around. Having released Michael Clarke after IPL 5, primarily because his T20 batting resembles that of a man so dosed up on valium he can barely function, they re-signed him for this edition. Presumably he is on less money this year, although judging by their other additions this presumption may be misguided. They also added Ajantha Mendis and Abhishek Nayar to their squad for a combined $1.4 million and Kane ‘Richardson, no surely that says Williamson, no it’s definitely Richardson’ Richardson for a paltry $700,000. It’s a great shame there will be no record of the accountant’s reaction when he turned up to work on Monday morning and casually checked his in-tray.
It wasn’t all ludicrous spending on comedy players, though. Well, it mainly was, but there were brief moments of clarity sprinkled sparingly across the auction. Mumbai Indians pounced for the born again Phillip Hughes for a (relatively) mere $100,000, which looks an excellent signing given his short-form performances of late, and even Nathan Coulter-Nile might prove to be a reasonable buy even though they had to fork out $450,000 for the privilege. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to give Mumbai too much credit as they seemed to interpret these clever signings as license to go absolutely mental with the rest of their money and promptly vomited a million dollars all over Glenn Maxwell. That particular decision was so breathtakingly stupid it made spending $400,000 on Ricky Ponting look like a triumph for business sense.
In terms of vaguely sensible efforts, Delhi Daredevils’ batting was far too top heavy last year and they managed to add some lower order depth by snapping up Jeevan Mendis for just $50,000. They also picked up Johan Botha for $450,000, who is probably a decent all round signing, and ex-Pune, ex-New Zealand, current world heavyweight drinking champion Jesse Ryder for $260,000. Quite why Pune released him is unclear, given wild partying and the complete absence of professionalism is actively encouraged in the IPL and, despite managing to reach the squad limit of 33, the Warriors still look short of top order batting.
Inspired by such a bold display of common sense, reigning champions Chennai Super Kings grabbed Sri Lankan mystery spin sensation Akila Dananjaya for just $20,000 but, while celebrating their triumph, accidentally bid $625,000 for some bloke called Chris Morris as well. At least Ben Laughlin and Jason Holder, at $20,000 apiece, were cheap options to keep MS Dhoni company in the dugout during tense chases.
Elsewhere, Kings XI Punjab rewarded Luke Pomersbach for one good innings at the Big Bash to the tune of $300,000 while Rajasthan Royals were crying all the way to the bank after letting Shane Warne negotiate for them and seeing $400,000 turn into James Faulkner in the blink of a bleary eye. Royal Challengers Bangalore made sure the auction didn’t collapse in on itself by giving Dan Christian a deal, and also committed to eye-watering subsidence costs by bringing in RP Singh and Ravi Rampaul as well. Newcomers Sunrisers Hyderabad, displaying the sort of sound squad building and financial planning that the tournament will soon beat out of them, signed Thisara Perera, Darren Sammy, Nathan McCullum, Clint McKay and the excellently-named Quinton de Kock for less than Pune managed to splurge during their extended moment of madness.
As always with the IPL, there were some players cruelly cast aside in the auction and left without a franchise. In fact, in some cases players were actually rejected once, then put back up and rejected again for no apparent reason. Those unsold included the likes of Matt Prior, Dinesh Chandimal, Martin Guptill and Aaron Finch, all of whom would surely improve most sides. Indeed, all would improve Pune’s side about fifty-fold. Alas.
The actual start of the tournament is still two months away, and franchises who haven’t filled their squads to the brim with absolute tripe (i.e. everyone but Pune) can still make signings in the interim, but at least now most players can book flights and hotels and plan their nightly trips to strip joints well in advance. An early auction also means plenty of time to check out who is most likely to overcome the stifling stench of mediocrity and make it past the marathon group stage (i.e. anyone but Pune) and into the final four. They’ll have to go some to be more entertaining than last weekend’s advertisement for platinum-grade stupidity.