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The surprising IPL auction: Analysing why some world-class cricketers were ignored by IPL teams

The bewildering IPL auction 2016 left behind questions on its execution and purpose, with outrageous sums dished out to outlandish people.

Pawan Negi IPL
Pawan Negi emerged as the face of the IPL auctions this year, being snapped up by the Delhi Daredevils for INR 8.5 crores.
 

"I think the Ranji Trophy last season was very important to me. Also, winning the best all-rounder award in domestic one-dayers last season. Munaf bhai treats me like his younger brother and he taught me what life is about really, its ups and downs.

“Rahul bhai, Monty [Desai] bhai and others in the IPL were hugely helpful because I would keep asking them a lot of questions on getting better," said Karun Nair who was bought by the Delhi Daredevils for a sum of Rs. 4 crores in the IPL auction this year.

Murugan Ashwin, another surprise pick who was snapped up the Rising Pune Supergiants for Rs. 4.5 crores blatantly expressed his surprise and incredulity.

In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, he said, “It is just an unreal feeling, I am really really happy and I want to thank RPSG for having the faith in me. Honestly, I was not bothered about the money, but the faith shown by Pune has given me a lot of confidence.”

As the IPL auction had come to its conclusion, a general and emerging trend was a surprise for all. Most of the franchises this year have spent lavishly on uncapped Indian players. This was even more surprising because some of the biggest names in world cricket went unsold at the auction.

Martin Guptill IPL
Martin Guptill, despite the truckload of runs he scored of late, went unsold at the auction

No takers for Guptill, Amla and Kevin O' Brien

The likes of Guptill, Amla and Kevin O' Brien were expected to hog the limelight at the auction this year. But contrary to expectations, all of them went unsold. This was surprising because players like Guptill and Kevin O' Brien can be devastating in the shortest format of the game.

Guptill has scored 1666 runs at a strike-rate of 129.64 in T20Is for the Kiwis. He has had a good time last year as he has been at his vindictive best, plundering bowling attacks for fun. His 30-ball 93 against Sri Lanka at Christchurch or his 237 off 163 balls against the Windies in the World Cup bear ample testimony to his form of late.

With 19 centuries and 27 fifties in ODIs at an average of 55.93, Amla is undoubtedly one of the true modern greats of the game. His ability to anchor and score at a brisk pace at the top of the order would have been a great asset to any IPL franchise.

Usman Khawaja, who has been of great form in the Big Bash of late and experienced in-form cricketers like Bailey and Dilshan were other notable names who went unsold. Is there any real reason behind such apparently inexplicable exclusions or is it only a problem of perceptions that the franchises have when it comes to certain players?

Not suitable for Indian conditions?

Two of the strongest reasons given for such notable exclusions was that such players would not have fitted the team composition or are unsuited for Indian conditions. The member of the coaching staff of an IPL franchise pointed out that Guptill's record is not great in Indian conditions. Guptill only has an ODI average of 38.37 from the 10 ODIs he has played in India.

The coaching staff, speaking to Espncricinfo, said, "How much of Guptill's performances are inside New Zealand and how much outside? There were doubts about his adaptability in Indian conditions. Even [Rising Pune Supergiants coach] Stephen Fleming didn't go for him."  

Usman Khawaja IPL
Usman Khawaja scored runs at an unbelievable average of 175 from 4 BBL games

But Khawaja's case is even more baffling as he has a surreal average of 175 from the four BBL matches he played this season. When he toured India with Australia A, he was in great form, scoring two half-centuries and a hundred.

According to Raghu Iyer, the CEO of the Rising Pune Supergiants, most of these players went unsold as they did not fit the system. "I think teams had very clear strategies at the top of the [batting] order. Almost every team had a settled opening pair. We too had Faf du Plessis and then bought Kevin Pietersen and Steven Smith. You don't want a class player like Guptill or Khawaja to sit out the entire season," Iyer said.

"However good these players were, we couldn't accommodate them in our plans. Khawaja was really unlucky not to have been picked by any team." 

Following that logic, Amla too could have missed out as franchises were not looking to buy openers. The other reason might obviously be that Amla has not quite been at his prolific best in Indian conditions. Amla's career ODI average of 52.07 falls to 38.16 in Indian conditions.

Throughout their tour to India last year, Amla had a torrid time facing up to the Indian spinners which might have made the franchises think twice before bidding for him.  However, Amla's overall Test average in Indian conditions is much better than his career average. He averages 51.45 as compared to 62.73 in Indian conditions.

This is also very much the case for Kevin O' Brien. O Brien's ODI career average of 31.62 is bettered by his average of 40,25 in Indian conditions. When we consider the fact that old pros - like the Sri Lankan trio of Sangakkara, Jayawardena, Dilshan - went unsold despite their tons of experience on Indian pitches, it leaves us to wonder if there are other factors here as well which are important enough to be considered.

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