IPL auction: Are Starc, Cummins worth a price tag of Rs 20 crore-plus?

Outrageous bidding war sees "most expensive player" record broken twice in one day!

Australian cricketers Mitchell Starc (left) and captain Pat Cummins (photo: ICC)
Australian cricketers Mitchell Starc (left) and captain Pat Cummins (photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

There was always a possibility that Australia’s World Cup-winning trio of captain Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Player of the Final Travis Head would attract a fierce bidding war at the IPL mini auction in Dubai.

It’s just that not many could gauge that the sky would be the limit. 

It was a dramatic Tuesday afternoon that saw the record for "most expensive IPL player" being broken twice in the space of one hour!

First, the Sunrisers Hyderabad edged out the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings in a four-way contest to land Cummins for Rs 20.5 crore—which broke Sam Curran’s record of Rs 18.5 crore that the Punjab Kings paid for the England all-rounder only last year. 

Then a ‘ridiculous’ bid followed—according to Australia’s major cricket website cricket.com.au—when the Kolkata Knight Riders got senior pacer Starc for Rs 24.75 crore, which alone ate deep into their available purse of Rs 32.7 crore after releasing a large chunk of players from last season. Back in the Indian Premier League after a gap of eight years, the crafty 33-year-old left-arm speedster was the subject of a tug-of-war between the Mumbai Indians, the Delhi Capitals and KKR until the first two dropped out past the Rs 10 crore mark. 

Finally, Gautam Gambhir, the newly appointed KKR mentor, broke into a rare smile after outlasting an outrageous bidding war with the Gujarat Titans.

There was far less drama for Head when the Sunrisers edged out the Chennai Super Kings to draft the match-winning centurion of the World Cup final for Rs 6.8 crore.  

‘’Somebody told me just now before Starc’s bid, they put up something like a historic bid. Very quickly history changed," remarked Venky Mysore, the long-serving KKR CEO. "IPL has changed and the salary cap has changed. Everyone comes with their own plans. This is my 14th auction—you know you win some and lose some. Starc was a preferred played from the skillset standpoint. We were not successful in some bids, so (this) favoured us. We were just happy to have him on our side.’’  

The IPL auctions have, over the years, confounded fans and analysts alike with the price tags as well as the phenomenon of several quality players going 'unsold'.

However, the exceptional deals for these two 'world's bests' raise serious questions about how much value for money they are going to bring to the table—and whether the price tags might weigh heavy on them.

Despite choosing to stay away from the IPL since 2014 (he was actually once roped in by KKR in 2018, but couldn’t make it due to injury), Starc boasts a better economy rate than his teammate in this league—he picked up 27 wickets from 26 matches at an economy rate of 7.17 for an average of 20.38. 

Cummins, for whom the Knights had once broken the bank earlier, has 45 scalps from 42 games at an economy of 8.54 and an average of 30.16. He was billed as the leader of the fast-bowling pack for KKR in 2022, but often proved expensive and ended up in the dugout, with New Zealander Tim Southee filling in instead.  

The hype over the Australian duo has somewhat overshadowed the three other millionaires of the day, with another inexplicable decision on West Indies fast bowler Alzarri Joseph—who went from the Gujarat Titans to the Royal Challengers Bangalore for a whopping Rs 11.50 crore. 

Meanwhile, New Zealand all-rounder Daryl Mitchell, who had gone unsold in the previous IPL auction, added to the Kiwi quotient in the CSK ranks at 14 crore—with the team management possibly eyeing him as a replacement for Ben Stokes.

The yellow shirts, on the other hand, were discreet spenders as always, getting Rachin Ravindra—a standout talent from the World Cup—for a measly 1.8 crore.

It was not that much of an eventful day for the Indian players, barring seasoned all-rounder Harshal Patel—who was released by RCB after a poor last season but more than made up for it with a whopping Rs 11.75 crore deal with the Punjab Kings. 

There were a few surprising ‘unsold’ names at the time of writing this—Steve Smith, English wicketkeeper Philip Salt, Australia’s Josh Inglis, Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Kusal Mendis, New Zealand’s Lockie Ferguson, Mohammad Waqar Salamkheil, Adil Rashid, Akeal Hosein, Ish Sodhi, Tabraiz Shamsi and Manish Pandey.

Let’s wait and watch! 

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