Kolkata Knight Riders have retained captain Gautam Gambhir and mystery spinner Sunil Narine for the 2014 season. Since they have retained two players, they will have two right-to-match cards and Rs 380 million at their disposal at the auction on February 12-13.
Gambhir became the most expensive buy ever at an IPL auction in 2011, when Knight Riders paid $2.4 million for him. The following year Knight Riders once again surprised everyone by going in for the relatively unknown Narine, who was bought for $700,000.
They proved to be smart investments as Gambhir and Narine were consistent matchwinners and played decisive roles in Knight Riders winning the IPL in 2012. Gambhir was the second-best batsman that year, while Narine finished as the second highest wicket-taker and the most economical bowler.
Although both Gambhir and Narine have been struggling with form, the franchise remained confident these are still their best two choices. Gambhir has lost his place in the India team but it's understood he will remain the Knight Riders captain. Gambhir's consistency, his reputation as one of the best players of spin on the subcontinent and his aggressive leadership were factors that the management took into account before retaining him. As for Narine, the franchise felt he remained the most promising of their bowlers - being young, he could only mature into a better bowler, they felt.
"It's a bit of a balancing act between retention, salary cap and the strategies," Venky Mysore, the Knight Riders' CEO, said. "Considering all this, it was the right approach for us." Mysore also said he was open to considering the right-to-match option at the auction. "There could be teams interested in the players who were with us and we could use the card to bring them back if we want to," Mysore said, without revealing any names.
India allrounder Yusuf Pathan, England batsman Eoin Morgan, Sri Lanka off spinner Sachithra Senanayake and South Africa allrounder Jacques Kallis are some of the players that the franchise could look at buying back at the auction.
After the specified amounts for the two players retained - Rs 125 million for player one and Rs 95 million for player two - are deducted from their salary cap of Rs 600 million (approx. US$ 9.6 million, at the current exchange rate), Knight Riders will be left with Rs 380 million to spend at the auction. This season, each squad must include no less than 16 and no more than 27 players, with a maximum of nine overseas players.
The amount deducted from the auction purse is not necessarily the IPL fee agreed to between the franchise and the retained player.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo