Decoding the IPL Auctions with Kolkata Knight Riders' assistant coach Simon Katich
The Indian Premier League Auctions might appear all fun and games where cash is splurged without a 'care' in the world, but then before all the mayhem on the auction day, the franchises burn the midnight oil to chalk out their strategy and the planning and plotting which is involved is reflected when they raise their bids.
Not only do they have to pick and choose players according to their requirement, they have to factor in all the possibilities, if and when few of the foreign players decide to leave the tournament mid-way being one of them.
Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda, Simon Katich, the assistant coach of Kolkata Knight Riders spoke extensively about how they do their homework and how the entire auction process pans out, mostly not according to their plans.
What is your role in the team and during the auction process?
The entire auction process is a cohesive team work. We have the analyst AR Srikanth who does all the hard work on the players. He looks at the players who are available and what they have been up to and also gets footage of them from the local tournaments.
This is the modus operandi as far as Indian players are concerned. We also keep track of the International players and what they are doing for their countries.
Are you in any way responsible or in charge of the players from the Big Bash League?
I wouldn't say I am in charge, so to speak, but yeah I cover plenty of games in Australia. But then it is all part of the process. When Srikanth, our analyst came over to Australia to take a look at the players, I became the point of contact since I was already watching and covering plenty of games.
I also have plenty of mates in different teams in Australia and they provide a lot of key inputs which is obviously crucial when it comes down to analysing the growth and potential of a player. It is nice when you can just pick up the phone and call up people asking them about players!
What is the homework the franchises do and what improvisation you guys make if the plan does not fall into place?
Yeah, look you have to be very flexible on the day because obviously, the order of the auction can dictate how you end up going with it. We in KKR had a number of different plans, given we knew when which players would be coming out because you have the order and the sequence of events given to you before the auctions.
Having said this, you still do not know how much a player would actually go far and for this, you need to have a budget in mind and on the day you have to play by it and see what ends up happening.
Ben Stokes was the hottest property this time. What is your take on his bidding process?
Well, like I said we can never be sure of the amount a player might go for. For instance, Stokes, as you said, started to go like crazy, went through the roof almost and this is when you have to take a call. You know your total pool of money and hence should be able to pull the pin on a player if and when such a situation arises.
If you decide to splurge big on any specific player, you might end up not getting several other blokes which can break the entire squad and the balance will he hit hard.
Kolkata Knight Riders were given a jolt with the suspension of Andre Russell. How did you react and formulate a plan accordingly?
It wasn't expected at all and we did not assume anything unless we got the official findings. However, we planned well in advance in case things went awry and as a result, we were able to identify players who could fill his role.
Did you then find his replacement this time around?
Ah well, I can't say we have found a replacement for him. Look it is very hard to replace a bloke who can bowl 145 kmph with the new ball and take wickets up front and then come back to be equally effective with the older ball too. And then there is his striking ability which is just brilliant.
To be frank there is no one like him going around. So we had to think about replacing him over a couple of players rather than just one. We got Chris Woakes and look he is a very good cricketer. He can bowl above 140 kmph with the new ball on a consistent basis. He has been brilliant for England and for some reason his batting is underrated.
Obviously, he is not in the same mould as Andre Russell, but he is very good with the willow. His strike rate is around 138 which is superb and hence we think he is someone who will come in and to top it off his current form has been very encouraging. Yeah, so quite happy with this purchase.
Gautam Gambhir was the only captain to be present in the auctions. Does this define the man?
Well, look he is very very involved in the entire process and he has a great influence in all the decisions we make at the franchise. I personally think the captain should be involved as he has a massive role to play on game day with the team he has at his disposal and it is only natural that he should be present when the squad is being picked and it is one of the crucial dynamics when he is there to provide inputs when the team takes shape.
The captain needs to be comfortable with the side he has in order to win titles and he has done that twice and no doubt he will be willing to be the first captain to win the title thrice.
You have high regards for Gambhir which is great considering the fact he got banned for elbowing you during a game...
Well, that is all part and parcel of the game, isn't it. All fun and games, we had a laugh about it before the series last year. Look, it keeps happening and more often than not it is made up to look worse than it actually is. It happens only because of the heat of the moment.
You cannot allow these things to linger and have to get on with it. We've had a bit of fun about it!
Are you and the KKR management happy with the squad you have managed, or are they any regrets?
Ah, we are very happy with our squads and we have got nearly all the players we were looking at. Obviously, you can't get everyone, there are other teams looking at players too, but we are satisfied with our squad which is well balanced.
Now it is all a matter of players going out there and performing which is the most crucial part of it all.
How has your experience been with KKR in these two years?
It was an honour working with Jacques Kallis last year as the assistant coach. We have a great mix of senior and young players in the squad which makes my job easier.
We have obviously Gautam and then there are plenty others in Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan. And then you have some quality young Indian players coming through in Kuldeep Yadav and Ankit Rajpoot. Not to mention all the overseas players and the atmosphere was very cordial, a family vibe right through.
We were disappointed when we were knocked out in the first final, but hopefully, we perform better this year.
How about the Eden Gardens atmosphere, an Australian being embraced as their own?
Well, I was very disappointed having never played in Eden Gardens in Australian colours. I toured 3 times but never got to play there and it has to be one of the biggest regrets of my cricket career having never got to play in front of a full house at the Eden Gardens.
I guess it's all made up now since I am working with KKR and the crowd and the Kolkata people are just so warm and cordial. It is fantastic!