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The IPL auction for the 2024 season under way at the Coca Cola Arena in Dubai on Tuesday. Image Credit: IPL

Dubai: Australia stars Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc will be laughing their way to the bank after becoming the top earners in Indian Premier League history, but once again Chennai Super Kings made some smart purchases in the mini auction in Dubai, held for first time outside the country.

Cummins was the first to break the Rs200 million barrier, going to Sunrisers Hyderabad. The Australian captain surpassed Sam Curran’s record of Rs185 million in the early part of the day, while fellow Australian pacer Mitchell Starc rewrote the record with Kolkata Knight Riders securing the left-arm pacer for Rs247.5 million.

Click here to see the IPL Auction 2024 highlights — as it happened

The 33-year-old became the focus of intense bidding between Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians at the start and both these franchises backed off when the price almost touched the Rs100 million mark. In came, Knight Riders and then the 2023 losing finalists Gujarat Titans and they both were unrelenting before Titans, who had a limit of Rs318.5 million at their disposal at the start of bid, backed out, while Kolkata spent more than half of their existing purse of Rs317 million for one purchase.

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Preity Zinta poses with fans during the auction at the Coca Cola Arena Dubai on Tuesday. Image Credit: IPL

Below-par performance

Historically, the big buys have not done too well, either they have ended up with below-par performance or succumbed to injuries. England all-rounders Sam Curran and Ben Stokes were the biggest earners in the last auction. While Curran could not live up to his expectations, Stokes was hardly available, playing only two matches for Chennai.

Both Cummins and Starc have a long history of injury concerns and it remains to be seen if the pace duo will live up to the expectations of the franchises.

While the focus was on these two big purchases, Super Kings got three for the price of one. New Zealand all-rounders Rachin Ravindra, and Daryl Mitchell and Indian all-rounder Shardul Thakkur, who returned to the Yellow Lions, with all being roped in for Rs198 million, still less than what Sunrisers and Kolkata paid for Cummins and Starc. The Super Kings splashed another Rs84 million for young talent and uncapped Jharkand wicketkeeper Sameer Rizvi, who is held in high esteem after his stunning century in the Uttar Pradesh Premier League.

“Both Rachin and Shardul were below out budget, but Mitchell was the key target. We were a little nervous before we could get him,” said Chennai coach Stephen Fleming. The defending champions are without England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who pulled out to manage his work load, and Mitchell will be a perfect fit for the five-time champions.

Auctioneer Mallika Sagar is anchoring the IPL player auction for the 2024 season
Auctioneer Mallika Sagar is anchoring the IPL player auction for the 2024 season held at the Coca Cola Arena, Dubai, on the 19th December 2023. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

Unfashionable player

“Ben played just one game for us, so don’t really miss him. Daryl is a different type of player and his performance in the last 18-24 months have warranted this type of purse. He is an unfashionable player who often go under the radar and we saw his ability to play spin during the World Cup. He is a real competitor and a handy bowler in Chepauk when the wicket gets slow. It’s a good buy for us,” the former New Zealand captain said.

Another reason why Sunrisers went all out for Cummins is that the Australian could be a possible leader in the new season. The 30-year-old has led Australia to 50-over World Cup title in India last month and the manner in which he has handled his resources will give Sunrisers the inclination to give him the role of the captain and help them win their second IPL title.

Hyderabad also had a few key additions like opener Travis Head, who played a match-winning knock against India in the 50-over World Cup final, and Sri Lankan spinner Wanindu Hasaranga.

Saurav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting at the IPL auction at the Coca Cola Arena in Dubai. Image Credit: IPL

Huge spends

Coach Daniel Vettori said he was happy with the purchases and explained the logic that went behind spending huge money on Cummins.

”We have covered most of the things that we want, hence we could spend so much on Cummins,” said the former New Zealander spinner. “We have some good batters like Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and Glenn Phillips, but they are all similar, hence we wanted a left-hander. Head has been playing well for a while and we went for him.”

The highest earners among the Indian players are death-over specialist Harshal Patel and Tamil Nadu big-hitter Shahrukh Khan.

One common trait among all teams is that they have spent lavishly on strengthening their pace attack. While the common reasoning among the coaching staff is that the pacers are the need of the hour, but with the IPL 2024 likely to clash with Indian Parliamentary elections, there is a talk that it could move out of India, as in the past. Several Indian news media have reported that the IPL 2024 could begin in March and end in May, but the league will be finalised after the announcement of the election dates.

There is also talk that the number of matches could increase, which even makes it difficult to complete the schedule within the window in India. In 2019, the first half of the league was held in India and the second half in the UAE.

Big shoes to fill

Gujarat Titans had a big shoes to fill when skipper Hardik Pandya moved to Mumbai Indians, hence they went all out to get Shahrukh Khan, but the 2023 finalists have had some impressive additions with Australian left-arm pacer Spencer Johnson, the biggest addition at Rs100 million.

Delhi, Mumbai Indians and Lucknow Super Giants all have strengthened their bowling department, while many international batters went unsold.

Royals went all out for West Indies Twenty20 skipper Rovman Powell. Talking about the addition, coach Kumar Sangakkara said: “We had a few gaps and we managed to fill them. We got a bit stretched by Powell, but he is one player we wanted desperately.”

Lucknow Super Giants team owner Sanjiv Goenka also was happy with his purchases. “We went with a plan and got what we want. Now it is a balanced squad.”

Uncapped Indian wicketkeeper Kumar Kushagra became Delhi’s biggest purchase for Rs72 million. From a base price of Rs2 million, the 19-year-old Jharkhand wicketkeeper-batter saw a stiff competition from Gujarat Titans, before the Capitals roped him in. It is surprising that with Rishabh Pant almost on the verge of recovering from his injury caused by a car crash, the Capitals went for such a huge buy.

Pant delighted

Skipper Pant, who was at the auction, said: “You know, as a kid, I used to think one day I might be able to sit on the [auction] table, somehow to help a team or something like that,” Pant said in a video posted on social media by the IPL handle. “I never thought that I will make it happen but somehow things are in place and I’m able to do it, and [I am] lucky to be able to do it. I think, hopefully, it will be an amazing experience because this is something new [for me]. Lots of love for the fans and hope we get whatever we want from the auction, I guess.

“Nervousness is definitely one point I’ve to work on because whenever you do something exciting or new, the nervousness is always there. Yes, this is my first time but I want to grow as an individual and learn whatever I can from it. [It’s] really exciting because I don’t know many people have done it or not, but I would love to be part of it — something exciting, something new.”

Talking about the skipper’s fitness and return to the team for the next edition, Pravin Amre said the franchise is awaiting the clearance.

“We wanted him to play, but it is not our decision. A lot will depend on the clearance from the NCA,” he added.

In all 72 players, including 30 internationals, were sold for a total price of Rs2.34 billion. A total of 333 players went under the hammer at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai and Steve Smith, Josh Inglis and Josh Hazlewood are some of the prominent names who went unsold.