Chris Lynn (Kolkata Knight Riders), Jaydev Unadkat (Rajasthan Royals) and Varun Chakravarthy (Kings XI Punjab), the three-most expensive buys at the last two IPL auctions, have been released by their respective franchises. Also back on the auction block is South Africa allrounder Chris Morris, who had been retained by Delhi Capitals before the 2018 auction but was released as the IPL trading window closed on Friday evening India time.
Royal Challengers Bangalore released the most number of players (12) followed by the Knight Riders and the Royals (11 each), Mumbai Indians (10), the Capitals (nine), Kings XI (seven), Chennai Super Kings (six) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (five).
Overall, Kings XI will have the fattest purse walking into the December 19 auction, to be held in Kolkata, with a kitty of INR 42.70 crore which they accumulated by shedding expensive buys from the last auction. This included Chakravarthy, the Tamil Nadu mystery spinner, who was the joint-most expensive pick along with Unadkat, at INR 8.4 cr, in the 2019 auction. Chakravarthy, who played just one game last IPL, was sidelined with an injury for the majority of this year, making it an easy decision for Kings XI to let him go.
The Mohali-based franchise also released Australia quick Andre Tye, who recently picked an injury. Tye, one of the best death bowlers a few years ago, had struggled last IPL and had been bought by Kings XI in 2018 for INR 7.2 cr. The other expensive buys offloaded by Kings XI included England allrounder Sam Curran (7.2 cr in 2019) and young Punjab wicketkeeper-batsman Prabh Simran Singh (4.8 cr in 2019). Another significant release by Kings XI was South Africa batsman David Miller (3 cr in 2018), who had spent eight seasons at the franchise since 2012. However, diminishing returns from Miller are likely to have gone against him eventually.
Miller's was not the only such case. Two other senior and long-time loyalists, Robin Uthappa and Piyush Chawla were released by the Knight Riders, who are believed to have not been impressed by the ineffective display from both players in the last two years.
Uthappa and Chawla were bought by the Knight Riders in 2014. In the 2018 auction the franchise had bought them back through right-to-match cards: Uthappa for a handsome price of 6.4 cr and Chawla for 4.2 cr. However, the 30-year-old legspinner struggled last season and had his worst IPL year in 2019, in terms of economy rate, picking just 10 wickets in 13 matches and leaking 8.96 runs per over. Uthappa, once a matchwinner for the Knight Riders, too, was not at his best in IPL 2019: he managed just one half-century for his 282 runs in 11 innings at an average of 31.33 and strike rate of 115.10.
Another example of how much franchises wanted value for money was Lynn. The Australia opener, who was bought initially in 2014, was bought back in the 2018 auction by the Knight Riders for 9.6 cr, making him the most expensive overseas buy. The Knight Riders spent so much because they wanted an aggressive opener, which Lynn had proven himself to be with his explosive batting.
In 2017 Lynn played just seven matches for the Knight Riders, but scored 295 runs at an average of 49.16 and strike rate of 181, the highest for anyone who scored over 100 runs that season. However, in the last two seasons his strike rate dropped to the 130s even though he played most of the matches in 2018 and 2019, with three and four half-centuries respectively. The franchise is believed to have had second thoughts this time as they felt they could instead invest in another player who could give similar returns at a lower price, or buy Lynn back for a cheaper rate.
Morris, too, had to endure the pain of becoming the only retained player in 2018 to be released this time. He joined the Capitals in 2016, and was the second player retained by them Capitals ahead of the 2018 auction, at 11 crore. However, Morris would have probably sensed the writing was on the wall. In the nine matches he played in 2019, he took 13 wickets but at an economy rate of 9.27, while scoring only 32 runs in six innings with a strike rate of 86.48.
Overall, 71 players were released by the eight franchises including 34 overseas names. There will now be a total of 73 slots available at the auction on December 19, including 29 overseas players. One franchise that is likely to be aggressive that day are the Royal Challengers, who revamped their coaching staff with the antipodean pairing of Mike Hesson and Simon Katich as the team director and head coach respectively. Royal Challengers released seven overseas players on Friday, more than any other franchise, and are now left with just AB de Villiers and Moeen Ali among their foreign names.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo