IPL 2014 May 12, 2014

Auction strategy to blame for Mumbai's decline?

The muddled thought process at the auction resulted in Mumbai Indians left with not enough cash to buy solid domestic players

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With three wins from nine matches, defending champions Mumbai Indians have the proverbial mountain to climb for a place in this year's knockouts. Their play has been patchy but were the seeds of this torrid summer sown earlier in the year by the retention and auction strategy adopted by the franchise?

Owned by one of the world's richest families, this team has historically thrived in their profligacy. This year though, flummoxed by revised auction rules, the franchise found itself in an unusual situation - of being one among eight equals.

In a carefully considered decision, the IPL allowed each franchise to retain up to five of its players but if you did so, your purse of 60 crore rupees was reduced by 39 crores, i.e. nearly two-thirds.

Mumbai were one of three franchises that retained five players but at auction table, they wandered into habitual profligacy. Mumbai's four most expensive purchases were Mike Hussey (5 crores), Corey Anderson (4.5 crores), Pragyan Ojha (3.25 crores) and Zaheer Khan (2.60 crores).

Besides Anderson, none of the others were likely to make a sustained impact and haven't. Hussey has been sitting out after four games that fetched him 30 runs at 7.50. Zaheer was ruled out with a shoulder injury but in six games, he took 5 wickets at nearly 30 runs apiece. Ojha has taken one wicket in six games at an economy rate of 8.65.

The muddled thought process at the auction resulted in their salary bill for just nine players ballooning up to 54.35 crore rupees and left them with just 5.65 crores for the rest of the squad. With uncapped Indian players part of the auction unlike previous seasons, it was an invitation for trouble.

Mumbai simply didn't have the cash left to pick up even one sought after uncapped player such as Sandeep Sharma, Manish Pandey, Karn Sharma, Rajat Bhatia, Rishi Dhawan, Ishwar Pandey and Kedar Jadhav. Each of them has gone on to make an impression in the tournament. Mumbai's picks Aditya Tare, C M Gautam and Jasprit Bumrah have been gutsy but mostly mediocre.

The strategy of the other two franchises that retained a maximum of five players - Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, was more assured. Super Kings' three most expensive buys were Faf du Plessis (4.75 crores), Dwayne Smith (4.50 crores) and Brendon McCullum (3.25 crores) - all high impact and in-form current internationals.

Add them to the five retained and it is no surprise the team finds itself at the top end of the table. Royals too were equally prescient - their top three buys were Steve Smith (4 crores), Brad Hodge (2.4 crores) and Rajat Bhatia (1.7 crores) that complemented the smart retentions that gave the squad its core strength.

Perhaps, as defending champions Mumbai were swayed by emotion and not cold logic in formulating their strategy. Two retentions, Rohit Sharma and Lasith Malinga were no-brainers. But were Ambati Rayudu and Harbhajan Singh valuable enough to be retained or could they have been purchased back with the Right to Match card at a lower price point? Much like the Kolkata Knight Riders did for Yusuf Pathan and Jacques Kallis or Sunrisers Hyderabad for Darren Sammy?

Neither was certain to get a massive bid and although both have made contributions this season, they certainly don't have the aura of match-winners. Rayudu has made a couple of half centuries in his nine games at the top of the order while Harbhajan has used his experience wisely for his six wickets so far.

Even Kieron Pollard's retention was a hopeful punt as he was returning from a long injury break and had missed the World T20. He's flowered in a couple of games but has failed to make a consistent impact.

Much of this is said of course with the benefit of hindsight and Mumbai might yet put together a compelling run that takes them into the knockouts and beyond. But from the outside, it appears Mumbai's management team didn't quite grasp how the ground rules had changed. With a steady supply line of impact players cut off, it is no wonder this is a team that has lost twice as many games as they've won so far.

Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    wasting money on Hussy , Cory, Ojha, (5+4.5+3.25) = 12.75 in place Mi Picked - Macllaum , smith, Irfan, munaf , pankaj ,badrinath ,sorabh tiwar, juneja i (3.25+4.5+2.4+.5+.3+1+.65+.1) = 12.7

    MI XI- Smith , Mucullam, Badr/ Tiwarii/ Tare,Rohit, Pollard,Raydu,irfan, Bhaji,Zaheer,Malinga, Munaf/Bumrah/s gopal/pankaj

  • Ali on May 13, 2014, 6:58 GMT

    Well of course MI flubbed the Auction ...

    They did not realize how important Dwayne Smith was to their team !

    Now they have swapped Smith for Simmons ...

    And all of sudden they have a balanced team again ! ! !

    the 2 games Simmons has played , have made the MI batting look like a great batting unit ...

    MI have key role players ...

    Malinga, Hajaban, Pollard (and used to be Smith) ....

    They have replaced Smith with Simmons and have Corey Anderson to mirror Pollrad ! so they have a good chance of either pollard or anderson finishing games ....

    Balance is everything !

    MI team is NOW better than RCB, who have never been able to figure out balance ,,,,,,

    But is you drop 1 vital cog from that MI team.. The whole thing falls apart ....

    Tendulkar and Sewagh are not as important as those 4 role players ....

  • Tintu on May 13, 2014, 5:51 GMT

    Hi..actually am against all of your thoughts, i dont think so any of the guys (Bhajji, Rayudu and Pollard) Mumbai can get cheaply for example look at other guys price tag Johnson, maxwell, smith, rishi dhawan, kulkarni they are not went for cheap and mumbai try to get them back. I think its only a matter of confidence of each player and then team selection or team management. In UAE they got everything wrong if they had made changes when they lost first 2 matches thy would have got atleast 2 win out of five. As far as auction i thick they lost when put match card on Ojha. Otherwise team is very good and last match is pure example of once openers gets it right everything fall in place. You will see the same guys in cricinfo will praising them... Kings XI or RR not going to win IPL..because its not in thm whn you put pressure on them both team fails..

  • Shwetank on May 13, 2014, 1:48 GMT

    Why Mumbai didn't retain at least one of Glen Maxwell, Dwayne Smith or Mitchell Johnson baffles me beyond belief. T20 cricket is all about high impact players, and the players they did retain (leave aside Rohit and Malinga) don't fit that bill at all, except maybe Pollard. It's really no surprise that they are struggling the way they are, and to rub salt into the wound, the teams that picked up their dropped players are doing well off those players' efforts. Think their team selection panel has some serious things to think about in terms of strategy. They should learn from guys like Dravid (who has done an amazing job with RR) on how to build a well balanced team.

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2014, 0:48 GMT

    Every fresh auction creates net gainers and net losers; since both gain & lose occurs. MI is the WORST NET LOSER. I posted this during the match. Understandably, it didn't get published within the commentary, since it would have taken the discussion away from THE match!

    The missteps continues.

    1. Wrong player retentions.

    2. Failed bids for right players.

    3. Bidding for the wrong players.

    4. Not choosing ONE right coach, who would be THE guiding light.Wright could have been right; but wrongly surrounded by a galaxy of ex-stars.

    5. Wrong application of CSR, by hiring a motley crowd of retired army to advice; God alone knows, to do what!

    6. Role confusion among the "Coaching Crowd".

    7. Wrong choice of the playing XI.

    It continues....in its rapid move from last year's top to this year's bottom... DD is the main, perhaps only, competitor in that race.

  • Cricket on May 13, 2014, 0:44 GMT

    It was a simple case of an even playing field that brought their downfall. Earlier, big spenders like RCB, MI and to an extent CSK, were free to outspend poorer teams like RR and KXIP. They stocked their benches with the best players, players they would never play, but also made them unavailable for the other teams. This is why there was a great difference between the big spenders and the others. CSK has a good management, so they got through this change fine, but MI and RCB had no clue what to do once their budget was limited. It showed how they blindly spent on past reputation and big names rather than carefully planned strategies. Like the article says, Bhajji, Rayudu and Pollard could have been bought back at much cheaper prices, and with the additional RTM cards, MI could have retained someone like Smith or Johnson. Their greatest contributers last year were Johnson, Malinga, Rohit, DK and Smith. They let 3/5th of their core team go, for unproven talents and aging players.

  • Dummy4 on May 12, 2014, 20:35 GMT

    plus you have to see maxwell was left out..well johnson was never going to b retined but maxwell should have been retained at any cost look at his form in the big bash league and even for australia before the ipl.well they can see now what they have missed.poor judgement.plus poor stratagies of playing rohit sharma and pollard low down the order

  • Dummy4 on May 12, 2014, 20:22 GMT

    Very well said. I personally believed Mumbai were the worst team at the auctions this year and it is no surprise their strategies have failed. Why they used their right to match card for Ojha is beyond me. Plus Corey Anderson as well was a huge risk as he has no experience on Indian pitches. They didn't pick a quality wicketkeeper plus no solid middle order batsman to complement Rohit Sharma or an opener. Now they are over relying on their top 2-3 players to perform every game

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