Indian Premier League (IPL), the biggest domestic extravaganza in Indian cricket is just around the corner. Apart from the nerve-wracking and nail-biting action that takes place on the field, the IPL auctions have in themselves garnered enormous interest from cricket fans and pundits the world over.
Some of the biggest names in world cricket were available in the auction pool. The auctions were expected to be newsworthy as always and did not disappoint this year as well. Bowlers and all-rounders had a gala of a time at this year's auctions, with Chris Morris becoming the most expensive player in the history of IPL auctions, going for a whopping ₹16.25 crores. Glenn Maxwell, Kyle Jamieson, and Jhye Richardson were also amongst the top picks for this year.
The various franchises attempted to cover all their remaining bases and walked out with well-rounded teams in certain cases. It is interesting to note that some franchises have opted to include specific marquee players at the expense of deep bench strengths. However, once the dust settled, there were some big players left wanting a new home.
The newly christened Punjab Kings looking to re-build their squad made some relatively expensive purchases, given that they possessed the biggest purse. While teams like Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians adopted a rather modest approach, trying to fine-tune their existing squads.
As usual, Royal Challengers Bangalore became one of the more talked about franchises coming out of the auctions. A solid batting line-up featuring Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers, and Glenn Maxwell coupled with a decent bowling attack makes one wonder if this is finally the year for them.
For every Glenn Maxwell, there is a Marnus Labuschagne, which is the story of life in general, and IPL auctions in particular. For this list, we run down the top 5 value-for-money picks coming out of this year's auctions.
#5 James Neesham (₹50 lakhs)
While Neesham had a rather forgettable run in the previous edition of the IPL in UAE, Mumbai Indians have reaffirmed their faith in his enormous potential and skillful abilities.
The Mumbai team management has gone for a rather strategic pick here, as Neesham is expected to serve as the backup overseas all-rounder. He would be the ideal replacement for Kieron Pollard as the No.6 power hitter. A bolstering inclusion to an already deep squad allows Mumbai to rest and rotate the players frequently.
The defending champions would want to make it a hat-trick of IPL wins, and their selective picks in the auction clearly showcase their plans for the upcoming season.
Brought in specifically for his batting abilities, Neesham in the T20 format possess a strike rate almost touching 150 and could very well render bowling line-ups obsolete. The Kiwi all-rounder has vast experience being a part of several T20 leagues the world over. He would be a crucial player in the middle overs of the innings.
Not a slouch by any stretch of the imagination with the bowl in hand, Neesham could provide added advantage with his cutters and slower ones. Thus, his inclusion provides more variety to the bowling attack.
#4 Ben Cutting (₹75 lakhs)
Known for hitting the longest ball in world cricket, the Australian all-rounder might turn out to be the pick of the season for the former two-time IPL Champions.
He could very well be the guy to fill in the ever-so-large shoes of Andre Russell, whose IPL participation remains unclear due to ongoing injury concerns. While he might not be the like-for-like replacement for Andre Russell, he is a game-changer in his own right.
Fans of IPL would remember his match-winning performance from the 2016 edition of the IPL final, helping Sunrisers clinch the title that year. A great addition to any outfit, Cutting would provide the much-needed jolt to the batting line-up.
Cutting has a strike rate going beyond 160s in the IPL and could be relied upon to contribute 2-3 overs. He is a seasoned veteran of the T20 format. His rich experience would be of immense value for the youngsters in the squad.
A utility player for captain Morgan, Cutting provides flexibility to the team management given his abilities to blend in any role.
#3 Shakib Al-Hasan (₹3.2 crores)
Making his much-awaited return to IPL and the Kolkata Knight Riders squad, Shakib was part of the franchise back during their successful IPL stints in 2012 and 2014. With Shakib joining their ranks for the upcoming edition, the team would hope to replicate similar success this year.
Having already opted out of the test series against Sri Lanka, Shakib would be available for the entire IPL season.
An instrumental all-rounder, Shakib is an experienced customer when it comes to crunch situations. The turning track at Eden Gardens is likely to assist him enormously, making it even more difficult for the touring sides to pick him.
In the recently concluded three-match ODI series against the West Indies, he was adjudged the 'Man of the Series' for his sublime performances with the bat and the bowl, scoring 113 runs while picking up 6 wickets.
Shakib could very well be the frontline spinner for captain Morgan given his ability to pick up wickets regularly. Furthermore, he will bring about the much-needed jolt to the depleted middle order, which hampered the team's performance tremendously last year.