The Royal Challengers Bangalore have signed uncapped New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman Finn Allen as a like-for-like replacement for Josh Philippe who will miss the entire IPL 2021 for personal reasons.
Allen, who had initially found no takers in the auction last month, had listed his base price at INR 20 lakh - identical to that of Philippe who was snapped up by the Royal Challengers at the IPL 2020 auction. Like Philippe, Allen can open the batting and keep wickets if needed.
"The RCB management is disappointed to lose a player of Josh's calibre for this IPL season, but at the same time we fully understand, respect and support his decision of excluding himself from the tournament," the franchise said in a statement. "We had to select the next best option from the list of players registered for the IPL auction, at the same base price as Josh (20 lakh). We spent a great amount of time working through that potential list and have selected Finn Allen as a top-order batting replacement."
Allen, the 21-year-old Auckland batsman who had moved to Wellington ahead of this domestic season, had a bumper Super Smash 2020-21, his chart-topping 512 runs at a strike rate of almost 194 powering the Firebirds to the title. All up, Allen clattered 25 sixes in the tournament - the most by any player - and pulled off a variety of trick shots, including an outrageous switch-hit off New Zealand and Northern Knights' premier spinner Mitchell Santner.
A day out of the Super Smash final, Allen had no expectations of an IPL call-up although he conceded that featuring in the league would be a bit of a dream come true.
"For me, there are no expectations," Allen had told ESPNcricinfo. "It has kind of always been that way for me - I'm just going out there and enjoying what I am doing. Just trying to win the title for Wellington, and if more than that comes out of it, it would be awesome. Obviously going to the IPL would be pretty amazing - that's almost my dream for a long time now, so yeah hopefully get lucky and get picked up. But, obviously no expectations, and if it doesn't happen, there's always the future."
A day after lifting the Super Smash trophy, Allen made it to the New Zealand T20I squad although only as cover for senior opener Martin Guptill. After Guptill cleared his fitness test, Allen linked up with Wellington again and continued his stellar form with a maiden List A hundred. During his knock of 128 off 59 balls, he drew level with Peter Fulton for the fastest hundred (50 balls) by a New Zealander in the format as Wellington posted 427 for 8 - another New Zealand List A record.
RCB director of cricket Mike Hesson, who had closely followed the New Zealand domestic season, was impressed with Allen's ball-striking in the Super Smash.
"From a New Zealand point of view, once again I'm not so sure about Colin Munro right now," Hesson had told Ian Smith on Sky Sports NZ in February. "I think he has played a lot of cricket and once again you what he can do. You can bring him in if you need to. Finn Allen is the exciting one, isn't he? It's a matter of whether you can fit him in there…often players need to have a breakout season like that just to get their first opportunity before you find out that they're actually really good.
"And New Zealand has done that with (Devon) Conway - obviously he's been knocking on the door for a long time - and Will Young is another fine player who has had to bide his time. But, if we think back to when Martin Guptill made his debut - he was young and on the back of some really, really good domestic performances to the point where he needed that opportunity. And Finn Allen, for me, there's no better time to do it. He's been exceptional at the top of the order and once it's about who you going to leave out."
At RCB, Allen will now unite with Hesson and Kyle Jamieson, who was signed for INR 15 crore at the auction.
Allen's maiden IPL deal means he could potentially be unavailable for New Zealand's three-match T20I series at home against Bangladesh, starting on March 28. IPL 2021 is due to begin on April 9, with RCB scheduled to play their league fixtures in Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata. The franchise's pre-season camp is already underway at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo