Sam Curran leads England pack as Joe Denly, Harry Gurney get IPL deals
Sam Curran has reaped the rewards of a stellar Test series against India last summer, after being picked up by Kings XI Punjab in the IPL auction for Rs 7.2 crore (approximately £800,000).
Curran, who turned 20 midway through his Test debut against Pakistan at Headingley last June, was the stand-out signing among England-qualified players, with Jonny Bairstow, Joe Denly, Harry Gurney and Liam Livingstone also earning deals.
He made his mark on the IPL auction after being named Player of the Series in England's 4-1 win over India, thanks to an explosive series of interventions with bat and ball.
In particular, he turned the tide in the thrilling first Test against India at Edgbaston in August, cracking vital runs in both innings, including 63 in the second to rescue his team from disaster at 87 for 7, and picked up five wickets in the match with his probing left-arm swing.
One man whom he impressed in the course of his exploits was India's captain, Virat Kohli, who praised both the timing and the impact of Curran's contributions.
"There's a reason why we voted for Sam as man of the series," Kohli said during the end-of-series presentations at The Oval. "Coming in at that stage in the batting order, and with the ball as well, he's made very important contributions.
"And if you look at the significance of the Test matches, the first one is massive, and after 2-1 [scoreline], the fourth one was massive. And he made plays in both those games. It takes character for someone to come in and play like that, so he deserves the award he got."
To date, Curran has won every one of his seven Tests (he missed England's defeat at Trent Bridge after being dropped for the sake of team balance), and averages 36.72 with the bat and 25.14 with the ball.
Ironically, T20 cricket is the one format in which Curran has not yet featured for England - his brother Tom (whose headshot was inadvertently used during the TV coverage of the auction) is preferred in white-ball cricket due to his greater variety with the ball and his burgeoning status as a death-overs bowler.
However, that fact has doubtless helped Sam Curran to attract the attention of the IPL franchises, because he is likely to be available for the entire tournament.
England's white-ball squad complete their tour of the Caribbean in early March, a couple of weeks before the IPL is set to begin, while the onset of the World Cup in late May means that Curran's next England engagement is unlikely to come before the Ashes preparations begin in earnest at the end of July.
As a consequence, Curran was the subject of a lively round of bidding, with Delhi Capitals making the first move at his base price of Rs 2 crore, before RCB joined the fray to push his price past 4 crore. Kings XI then swept in at 5.2 crore, and competed with RCB to take him past 7 crore, making Curran both a dollar millionaire, and the most expensive overseas signing of the auction to date.
Despite his lack of England T20 experience, Curran does have a decent track record in the format with Surrey, for whom he has played the majority of his 47 matches. A batting average of 15.93 and a bowling economy rate of 8.24 runs per over suggest room for improvement, but his cool under pressure in the Test arena was palpable to the franchise owners.
Furthermore, he has already shown an aptitude for Asian conditions, not least with the bat, in playing his part in England's 3-0 series whitewash in Sri Lanka last month. At Galle and Pallekele, he produced a brace of vital counterattacking innings to help propel England to defendable totals.
The uncertainty around the availability of England's World Cup players year was evident as several notable names went by without a bid, including Alex Hales and Chris Woakes, who himself became an IPL millionaire when RCB swooped for him last year.
Eoin Morgan, England's one-day captain, was also unsold, after being belatedly added to the auction list.
However, one World Cup certainty to buck the trend was Bairstow, who joined Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs 2.2 crore (approximately £245,000) after showcasing his explosive power with an innings of 84 not out from 24 balls in the T10 league earlier this month.
Denly, who might yet be a World Cup bolter after being included in England's one-day squad for the Caribbean tour in the spring, earned a lucrative Rs 1 crore deal with KKR (approx £112,000) after initially going unsold. He made his mark with four wickets in a Player-of-the-Match performance for England in a T20 against Sri Lanka last month, following two strong seasons with Kent in which he reinvented himself as an allrounder.
Gurney, the Nottinghamshire left-arm seamer, is also heading to KKR for Rs 75 Lakh (£84,000), while Livingstone, the Lancashire batsman, joins his England team-mates Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler at Rajasthan Royals for Rs 50 Lakh (£56,000).
England players at 2019 IPL auction
Sam Curran (Kings XI) £800,000
Jonny Bairstow (Sunrisers) £240,000
Joe Denly (KKR) £110,000
Harry Gurney (KKR) £80,000
Liam Livingstone (Royals) £50,000
Unsold: Pat Brown, Liam Dawson, Laurie Evans, Steven Finn, Lewis Gregory, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, Eoin Morgan, Jamie Overton, Samit Patel, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Luke Wright