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Curran and Unadkat are IPL millionaires, Hetmyer to RCB

Loads of interest in Indian fast bowlers, some bumper winners among West Indies players, and Dube, Chakravarthy draw big bucks among local stars

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
The 2019 IPL auction had the familiar profiles of players who get picked up - mystery spinners, overseas players who've shone against India, Indian fast bowlers - but the dominant theme this year was youth. Sixty players were signed up by the eight franchises - some of them for big money - and 32 of them were uncapped.
The biggest payoff went to Tamil Nadu's mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, who claims to have six different variations. Each of them officially costs more than INR 1 crore now after he was bought by Kings XI for INR 8.4 crore (approx USD 1.17m). The franchise is captained by R Ashwin, who is also from Tamil Nadu, and they had to beat a very persistent Kolkata Knight Riders, led by another Tamil Nadu stalwart Dinesh Karthik, to get their man.
Earning the same figure was Jaydev Unadkat, who proved that Indian fast bowlers remain the most sought-after commodity in the IPL. He became an IPL millionaire for the second time in the same year. The left-arm quick was sold for INR 8.4 crore (approx. USD 1.17m) to Rajasthan Royals, the same team that had bought him for INR 11.5 crore in January and then released him ahead of this auction.

Life in the fast lane

In all, there were 20 specialist seamers who gained bids. Fourteen of them were locals. And the six who have represented India in one format or other, each took away at least INR 1 crore. That's Ishant Sharma at INR 1.1 crore to Delhi Capitals, Mohit Sharma at INR 5 crore to Chennai Super Kings, Mohammed Shami at INR 4.8 crore to Kings XI, Barinder Sran at INR 3.4 crore to Mumbai Indians and Varun Aaron at INR 2.4 crore to Royals.
So if you are an overseas fast bowler and you want an IPL contract, then bowl 140-plus like Lockie Ferguson (KKR), Oshane Thomas (Royals), Hardus Viljoen (Kings XI) and Anrich Nortje (KKR) - or be left-arm - like Harry Gurney (Kings XI) - or be a legend - like Lasith Malinga (Mumbai), but even then there are no guarantees. Dale Steyn found no takers.
Then there are those international players that impress while playing against India. Sam Curran, the 20-year old England fast bowler whom Virat Kohli said was the difference between the teams during the recent Test series, became the highest priced overseas player this year, going to Kings XI Punjab for INR 7.2 crore.

Teenage sensations

Seventeen-year old Prabhsimran Singh came in at a base price of INR 20 lakh but was sold for INR 4.8 crore (approx 666,000 USD) to Kings XI Punjab. He has not played any T20s, but does strike them big in age-group cricket. Sample his innings in the final of the Under-19 Asia Cup - an unbeaten 65 off 37 balls to win the title.
Prayas Ray Barman, a 16-year old legspinner who was Bengal's top wicket-taker in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, struck a chord with RCB, who took him on for INR 1.5 crore (approx USD 208,000)
Harpreet Brar (Kings XI) is yet to play a top-level competitive match. Darshan Nalkande (Kings XI) has only five to his name and none of them were T20s. Shubham Ranjane (Rajasthan Royals) hasn't played the shortest format either. Neither have Agnivesh Ayachi (Kings XI), Prithvi Raj (Kolkata Knight Riders) and Rasikh Salam (Mumbai Indians). These are players who are virtual unknowns except, it seems, to the talent scouts of the IPL teams.

The age-old RCB

They make big runs. They deflate the opposition. But they remain title-less largely because they have almost never have a bowling attack they can rely on. RCB had money to address that problem - they had the fourth-biggest purse - 18.15 crore - but they spent a bulk of that money on batsmen.
They got Shivam Dube for INR 5 crore and although he is a seam-bowling allrounder, he is comparatively more adept at hitting the ball over the ropes than bowling it at a tough length. They got Gurkeerat Singh, who occasionally bowls offspin, but again is more adept at scoring runs than stopping them. In fact, the franchise picked up only one specialist bowler - the 16-year old uncapped legspinner Prayag Ray Barman.
Coach Ashish Nehra was at the auction in Jaipur and he kept saying you can do nothing wrong at the auction, that the moves you make depend on what kind of players you need. Last year, he gave his bowling attack a resounding vote of confidence and it seems their auction strategy implies the same. They believe they already have enough resources to trouble the other teams. Perhaps with the prospect of Tim Southee being available for the entire season, Australia fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile expected to be fit and Yuzvendra Chahal doing his thing, some of that confidence is well founded.
Mohammed Shami, who picked up 6 for 56 in the Perth Test against Australia, went to Kings XI for INR 4.8 crore (approx USD 667,000). Mohit Sharma, a death-overs specialist with his assortment of slower balls, attracted bids from various franchises until he was finally sold to defending champions Chennai Super Kings for INR 5 crore (USD 694,000).

The overseas hits

West Indies remain the undisputed kings of T20. They hold the world title. And their reputations ensure interest in virtually every T20 league in the world. There were 20 overseas players picked and six of them came from the Caribbean.
Shimron Hetmyer, who was in blinding form on a tour of India earlier this year came up for bidding in the very first set of the auction. He was bought for INR 4.2 crore (approx USD 583,000) by Royal Challengers Bangalore, who are captained by Virat Kohli, and who must have had a close-up look at the left-handed batsman as he made 259 runs in five ODIs at a strike-rate of 140.
Carlos Brathwaite will resume his Eden Gardens love affair, going to Knight Riders for INR 5 crores (approx USD 694,000). The West Indies allrounder first made a name for himself in the World T20 final in 2016 when he hit four sixes off four balls to win the title in Kolkata.
Hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Nicholas Pooran will join Kings XI's squad for INR 4.2 crores (approx USD 583,000). Allrounder Sherfane Rutherford, with a T20 strike-rate of 142 and a first-class best of 6 for 32, joined the Delhi team for INR 2 crore (approx USD 277,000). Keemo Paul, who graduated from Under-19 cricket as a world champion into the senior squad earlier this year, found a home with Delhi Capitals for INR 50 lakh while Oshane became a Rajasthan Royal.

Bits and bobs

Kings XI had the most money to burn - INR 36.2 crore - and it appears they have a liking for people who can spin the ball. They already have R Ashwin and Mujeeb ur Rahman on their roster and now reinforcements have arrived in the form of Chakravarthy and Murugan Ashwin. Anybody fancy Mohali showing up for this IPL looking like a dustbowl?
Royals loved their uncapped players. Four of the seven players they picked up haven't played any international cricket and even the other three - Unadkat, Ashton Turner and Liam Livingstone - are by no means veterans. It looks like they are trying to build a team for the future.

The England conundrum

With the English players set to leave for national duty by April 25, there was no interest in Alex Hales, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan. But Jonny Bairstow did find a home. He will play IPL for the first time, with Sunrisers Hyderabad, who picked him up for INR 2.2 crore (approx USD 306,000), ostensibly to cover for David Warner, who won't be with the team for the first three weeks.

Big names unsold

Brendon McCullum, who launched the IPL with a 158 over a decade ago, went unsold. As did Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel and Cheteshwar Pujara.

The local stars

Yuvraj Singh went unsold when his name came up the first time, but at the end of the day, he was called back and was picked up by Mumbai for INR 1 crore (approx USD 139,000)
Shivam Dube, the Mumbai allrounder who hit five sixes in an over twice, went to Royal Challengers Bangalore for INR 5 crore (approx USD 694,000).
RCB brought on Akshdeep Nath for INR 3.6 crore (approx USD 500,000). The 25-year old batsman has played for Kings XI and Gujarat Lions in the past.
Hanuma Vihari, who has been travelling with the Indian Test team since the England series earlier this year, became the first man sold at this auction in Jaipur. He will play for Delhi Capitals having been acquired for INR 2 crore (approx USD 278,000). They also bought allrounder Axar Patel at INR 5 crore (approx USD 694,000).
Wriddhiman Saha, who has not played a competitive match since the end of the last IPL, went to Sunrisers for 1.2 crore (approx USD 167,000). The wicketkeeper has been undergoing a lengthy rehab for his shoulder injury but is expected to be fit again later this month.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo