Kolkata: Expect the unexpected - the catchline fits the bill for the Indian Premier League auction over the years. The mini auction, which was expected to be a regulation affair on Thursday, threw up the most expensive player in history in South African allrounder Chris Morris as Rajasthan Royals broke the bank for him with a staggering $ 2.25 million.
“The most expensive player in IPL history is now a Royal,” Rajasthan screamed on the social media as Morris will join a team including three top England stars: Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes.
“It was quite a high price, but at the same time, the role in the team and the demand for the role plays a large part,” Royals’ director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara said.
Morris’ fee marginally betters the record of $2.2 million paid for Yuvraj Singh by Delhi Daredevils in 2015. Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins had previously been the most expensive foreign player, costing Kolkata Knight Riders $2.17m in 2019.
The 33-year-old, a crafty fast bowler and hard-hitting lower order batsman, had been there and done that before in the IPL, having played for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the last season in the UAE, Delhi Daredevils as well the Royals themselves in 2015. Ironically, Morris was released by the RCB management due to lingering doubts about his fitness - and it turned to be a blessing in disguise for him.
Starting with a base price of $ 100,000, Morris attracted bids this time from other teams including current champions Mumbai Indians and Punjab Kings. He has played 42 One-day Internationals and 23 Twenty20 matches for South Africa and has claimed 80 wickets in 70 matches in the world’s richest Twenty20 tournament.
The second biggest bid for the day was no less intriguing with Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell being picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore for $1.95m after another intense auction. ‘Maxi,’ who was acquired by Punjab Kings for the 2020 season for $ 1.5 million, was released after an extremely poor season in the UAE - though he had a decent campaign in the Big Bash League in January.
Former Australia captain Steve Smith went to Delhi Capitals for $300,000 after being released by Rajasthan Royals. Punjab snapped up 24-year-old Australian quick Jhye Richardson for $1.9 million,
Three-time IPL champions Chennai, who had an unusually insipid campaign last year, acquired England’s spin bowling allrounder Moeen Ali for $950,000 - more than three times the fee paid when he was last at auction in 2018. The England allrounder, who has considerable experience of playing in the Indian conditions, is quite a smart buy given his ability to keep things tight with his off spin as well as upping the ante while batting.
Chennai, whose attack revolved round spin over the years, shelled out $ 1.25 m for off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham - the costliest Indian buy on the day.
There was much interest around England’s Dawid Malan, the No.1 batsman in T20Is, who was picked up by Punjab Kings.
Shakib Al Hasan, the former Bangladesh captain, made a comeback to the IPL after a two-year ban and the Kolkata Knight Riders wasted no time in picking him up. ‘‘I am quite excited about returning to the IPL. I had been a part of KKR before and hope to relive my experience with them of the 2012 and 2014 season,’’ Shakib said in a video released by the franchise.
Each of the eight teams is allowed to spend nearly $12 million in salaries for the 10-week tournament. Many have a high number of retained players who are never on the auction list.
Vivo back as title-sponsors
Chinese phone maker Vivo returned as the IPL’s title sponsors after the deal was suspended last year following a border clash between India and China.
In 2017, Vivo signed a five-year contract worth more than $330 million to sponsor the IPL, which was held behind closed doors in the United Arab Emirates last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s season is expected to start in April and the BCCI is planning to restrict it in the three international venues available in Mumbai with a possible fourth centre in Pune - which is a few hours drive from Mumbai. Ahmedabad, however, is likely to host the play-off matches and the final.