The world is amazed at the wealth that has been displayed at the second players' auction in Goa for the IPL's second season. Yes, the world is reeling under a financial crisis and there is not enough liquidity in the market, but do people really think that would have anything to do with the BCCI and its ventures? Or, the businessmen who own airlines and oilfields, and a Formula One team! Some of them make movies too. So, no, especially when more than just a game of cricket is at stake! For them, it is also about business and that needs sound investment.
Read Part I here
Kings XI Punjab:
This is the second franchise which has a Bollywood connect as well as a business one and they did well last year, reaching the semi-finals. Their problems are actually quite different from the ones faced by other franchises. While their opponents are reeling from the effects of Pakistan players not playing or the mix of the side not good enough, Kings XI has a well balanced team atleast on paper. Their players were all in good shape last season but twelve months is a long time in sport and things inadvertently do change.
And so, they now don't have a fast bowler good enough to hold his place in the team with Brett Lee still out injured, physically and mentally; while Sreesanth is nowhere near his best. Irfan Pathan was their all round solution to back up the middle order and he hasn't been too convincing of late. So, in that light, their purchases have been up to the mark. Ravi Bopara has grown leaps and bounds ever since he first made his presence known to the international cricketing world and at the time of writing was scoring his test debut ton. He can even turn his arm over, finish matches, use the long handle and even open the innings, so his flexibility will mean that for the three weeks he will be here, Pathan can expect to sit out. The other purchase, Jerome Taylor will be an asset to the depleted fast bowling stable. Even though he isn't the most fearsome of the current Windies fast bowlers, he managed to run through a strong-on-paper English batting. So, four overs day in and day out won't hurt much.
Delhi Dare Devils:
They bought David Warner before anything else and that is without doubt a commendable piece of business, just look at the speed with which he scores in the T20 format. With him coming in, it was imperative to lose one top order batsman and so Shikhar Dhawan became expendable. At the same time they needed to bolster their fast bowling with Mohammed Asif doping away to glory. And so they went ahead and exchanged one Delhi player for another, as per their needs. Ashish Nehra comes in from Mumbai Indians in exchange for Dhawan who should find more opportunities at the top in Mumbai.
The only other puzzle was that of the middle order for they were quite light the last time as well in that department. Their dependence on the top order is what cost them the semi-final as there was always a gaping hole after Gambhir, Sehwag and Dhawan got out with the likes of Manoj Tiwary and Shoaib Malik not firing. And so, the purchase of Owais Shah becomes yet another great business done. For Shah is hot commodity right now, especially with Middlesex doing so well in T20 last year.
But at the same time, what is questionable is the signing of Paul Collingwood. With Daniel Vettori, Glenn McGrath and Fervez Maharoof sure to play, the fourth position will be a toss up between Shah and Warner. In that scenario, wasting money on a second Englishman in a similar mould to Shah, with both available for only three weeks doesn't make much tactical sense. But then what else do you expect from a team led by Virender Sehwag?
Expect the Ambanis to do sharp business. They are missing Shaun Pollock so they got Kyle Mills, who will play the entire season and will cost less too. He can bowl four overs decently enough, with pace and get a few runs if the situation demands so, too. They got Shikhar Dhawan in a barter for Nehra from Delhi DareDevils during the transfer window, so that will bolster their top order as they didn't have anyone supporting Jayasuriya and Tendulkar at the top (not that the duo need much support!).
They also got Zaheer Khan back to his Ranji team in exchange for Bangalore Royal Challengers' Robin Uthappa and so their pace attack bears a menacing look with Dilhara Fernando and Andre Nel in their ranks. But the main point of business at the auction for Mrs. Ambani was to purchase solid middle order batsmen to plug the holes and in Mohd. Ashraful and JP Duminy, they have got exactly what they wanted. Duminy was a hot cake ever since his debut Down Under and lived upto the hype. With the two best openers firing at the top, a potent pace attack and the most exciting fresh talent to anchor their middle order, the Mumbai Indians are looking good already.
Young Aussies are the flavor of the season as Chennai have gone ahead and purchased yet another one who is adept with both the bat and the ball in this shortest format of the game. George Bailey will be a player to watch but that is if he gets a chance to shine for both Stephen Fleming and Mathew Hayden will be available for the whole length of the tournament.
Thilan Thushara hasn't had a great home series against India but one bad outing doesn't make him a half bad player. He can bowl and uses the long handle to good effect and so an asset for the team. The management were actually looking for a player in this mould. But in reality he is just a back up. For there is no one better than Andrew Flintoff who can get a team's spirits soaring with his antics, be it the willow or the cherry. Getting the most expensive player on their books for a second year in a row will only pay rich dividends in the end.
(The columnist is a sports writer based in New Delhi, India.)