IPL: KKR underdog Harshit Rana steals the show under pricey Starc's nose

Prohibitive price tags for Australian duo Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins forces BCCI to mull a salary cap

Harshit Rana
Harshit Rana

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It was supposed to be a face-off between two of the biggest fast bowlers of the modern game with matching price tags: Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. Eventually, a 22-year-old uncapped pacer Harshit Rana stole the show by defending 13 runs in the last over. He emerged as an unlikely hero for Kolkata Knight Riders, raising fresh questions about the conspicuous buys in the auction.

Just ponder this: Rana, who finished with figures of 4-0-33-3 including the two prized wickets of Heinrich Klaasen and Shahbaz Ahmed in the final over, was bought by the Knights at a base price of Rs 20 lakh as a substitute for Rasikh Salam.

The decorated Starc, on the other hand, became the most expensive player in the history of IPL when he went for Rs 24.75 crore in the Dubai auction after an intense bidding war despite having an economy rate of eight-plus in T20 format.

It was nothing short of embarrassing to see the Australian great being pummelled for sixes in the 19th over, when he went for 26 runs and eventually ended at 4-0-53-0.

Cummins, captain of Sunrisers Hyderabad, did marginally better to pick up the key wicket of Rinku Singh and finish with 4-0-32-1 but the question that begs to be asked whether he also merited a price tag of Rs 20.50 crores.

The prohibitive price tags of the duo had become such a raging topic of discussion that it has now forced the IPL management to mull a salary cap for the future.

Here is what Arun Dhumal, chairman of IPL, told Hindustan Times: ‘’We have taken note of the disparity it creates. We will definitely conduct a review and come out with a new policy to address the issue. A few ideas have come in. We will discuss wth the franchises as well before deciding further.’’

The mini-auctions, as Dhumal has rightly pointed out, had been witness to some outrageous acquisitions in recent years as the franchises often go berserk in search to plug the gaps in their respective teams from a limited pool of players. The KKR management, which had released Cummins after 2022 season, had been ostensibly on the lookout for a quality death bowler and pulled out all stops to get Starc on board.

Given the class of bowler Starc is, he will definitely pick up the pieces from the shellacking that he received at the hands of Klaasen and Shahbaz but then – there is no doubt that it’s been a quick reality check for him on his return to IPL after eight seasons.

For Rana, however, it was a day of mixed fortunes when he was docked 60 percent of his match fees for breaching the IPL Code of Conduct when he gave a rude send-off to Sunrisers opener Mayank Agarwal – his first wicket during the SRH chase.

“He (Rana) should not have done that. Did the batsman do anything to him when he was hitting him for sixes? Cricket can be played without these antics. It's the age of television. I understand that. Celebrate with your teammates but no need for such antics for the opposition,” Sunil Gavaskar had on-air on a disapproving note.

It was, however Rana’s final over in the high-scoring thriller that earned KKR a dramatic win at home to start their campaign. The strapping Delhi bowler has, for now, lived up to IPL’s credo on the glittering trophy – ‘’Where talent meets opportunity.’’

He surely needs to keep the good work going!

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