IPL insiders reveal reasons behind Usman Khawaja and Martin Guptill going unsold at the auction
With the surprise generated by the big pay packages earned by many of the Indian domestic cricketers as well as the shock caused by the omission of big-name T20 players like Martin Guptill and Usman Khawaja at the IPL auctions held on February 6 gradually settling down, sources close to the various franchises have shed light on the rationale behind the way in which they approach the task of picking the squads.
Guptill, who in the last year averages 49.12 in nine T20Is with a strike rate of 165.12, besides scoring nearly 1600 runs at 63.72 in ODIs, as well as Khawaja, who scored 345 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 163.5 on the way to leading Sydney Thunder to their maiden title triumph in the Big Bash League, were expected to fetch high values at the auctions but surprisingly were not picked by any of the eight franchises.
According to Raghu Iyer, CEO of the Rising Pune Super Giants, the main reason for their omission was the fact that they are both openers.
"I think teams had very clear strategies at the top of the [batting] order," Raghu Iyer, told ESPNcricinfo. "Almost every team had a settled opening pair. We, too, had Faf du Plessis and then bought Kevin Pietersen and Steven Smith. However good these players were we couldn't accommodate them in our plans. [However] Khawaja was really unlucky not to have been picked by any team."
A franchise mentor, who wished to remain unnamed, also seconded Iyer’s opinion.
“Although they are very good T20 players, all these teams have settled opening pairs," he said. "If you look at Sunrisers Hyderabad, they have [David] Warner and Shikhar [Dhawan], Mumbai Indians have Lendl [Simmons] and Parthiv [Patel]. You don't want a class player like Guptill or Khawaja to sit out the entire season," he said.
Franchisees prudent when it comes to spending on foreign cricketers
Iyer also said that many of the franchises were already having a settled line-up and were only looking to add squad members without spending too much money.
"It's a mini-auction with most teams going into it with a settled core already. Of course, in our case we had to build our entire squad and we are quite satisfied with we bought. But settled teams like MI or KKR were looking for back-ups and to plug a few holes here and there."
Iyer added that the franchises were now willing to pay more money to Indian cricketers while exercising prudence when it came to shelling out for foreign players unless they were a guaranteed pick in the playing eleven.
"Even in this auction, they have been a lot more rational with their prices on foreign players. They went all out only for the players they wanted. In Shane Watson, RCB got the allrounder they wanted, likewise, we went for Mitchell Marsh and Delhi for Chris Morris. These are sure shot picks in the playing XI,” Iyer said. "The Indian boys, on the other hand, have gone for a lot of money. It's sometimes difficult to predict the auction dynamics, but it augurs well for the Indian boys."
Guptill and Bailey not suited for the IPL
Sources close to a couple of IPL franchises meanwhile claimed that the likes of Guptill and Australian George Bailey were not picked as they were not suitable to the playing conditions expected.
"How much of Guptill's performances are inside New Zealand and how much outside? There were doubts about his adaptability in Indian conditions. Even [RPSG coach] Stephen Fleming didn't go for him," said a member of the coaching staff of a franchise.
A source close to the Kings XI Punjab side said that former skipper Bailey was not picked as they were unsure of his effectiveness as a batsman.
"They might have thought that having him as captain blocked a slot for another foreign player, like Shaun Marsh," he said. "These things matter a great deal too."