BENGALURU: When fans in Karnataka wake up on Sunday morning, they will have bittersweet memories about how the auctions unravelled for Royal Challengers Bangalore. The team dumped some of their more established names – Chris Gayle, especially, was an eye-popping exclusion considering all that he has done for the franchise – in the hope of getting a few of their Golden Generation back.
K L Rahul, Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa – who have performed admirably for the State team – have lit many an IPL night, but for other franchises. That had already caused much consternation amongst the cricket-loving public here. So when Gayle – in the marquee list of players at the auction – was dumped, there was the prospect of a few homegrown players coming back to embrace home. That feeling, however, was snuffed out pretty quickly. Royal Challengers did bid for both Rahul and Pandey (bought by Kings XI and Sunrisers, respectively) but lacked the conviction to secure their services as they were bullied off the table.
The Karnataka players, however, had a field day at the auctions. Rahul, a stylish opener, and Pandey, a middle-order batsman, bagged deals worth `11 crore each. India discard Karun Nair too triggered a bidding war before Kings XI Punjab got him for `5.60 crore. Robin Uthappa’s pyrotechnics earned him a callback from KKR at Rs 6.4 crore.
While RCB did make a few purchases that will make the team competitive in the upcoming edition (Yuzvendra Chahal and Moeen Ali readily come to mind), it’s still top-heavy: a condition they have suffered ever since the inaugural edition. It sure reads sexy on paper – who wouldn’t want Virat Kohli sandwiched between Brendon McCullum and AB de Villiers in a batting line-up. But given that the Chinnaswamy surface is a batsman’s dream, they appear a bowler or two light.
Sure, Chris Woakes – an astute acquisition – and Chahal will be amongst the wickets but they cannot bowl 20 overs between them. There is a day left for the RCB management to try and right the wrongs of horrors past but Saturday’s indications do not offer much promise.
However, the auction was a welcome departure. Gayle wasn’t the only high profile unsold player. Even the likes of Lasith Malinga and Ishant Sharma met a similar fate. Having seen many instances of million-dollar men eventually become duds — in terms of performance — over the past ten iterations, aficionados can heave a sigh of relief. The economy may still be doing well but the money men mostly opted to play it safe. Another major theme that emerged is that utility players were laughing their way to the bank. In previous instalments, ageing marquee players stole the headlines. Not so in this one.