IPL: Phil Salt snubbed at auction, makes a statement for the Knights

England batter’s 89 against Lucknow evokes comparisons with Chris Lynn’s memorable knock

Phil Salt (left) and Kolkata Knight Riders' captain Shreyas Iyer during their matchwinning partnership at Eden Gardens on 14 April 2024 (photo: BCCI)
Phil Salt (left) and Kolkata Knight Riders' captain Shreyas Iyer during their matchwinning partnership at Eden Gardens on 14 April 2024 (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The Salt effect is rubbing off well on Kolkata Knight Riders fans this season.

A blazing innings of 89 off 47 deliveries, which helped the Knights return to their winning ways at a canter against the Lucknow Super Giants at the Eden Gardens on Sunday, 14 April, left one wondering why no one actually bid for the English opener in the mini auction in Dubai.

Drafted at the eleventh hour after Jason Roy pulled out of the 2024 season due to personal reasons, Phil Salt showed he has it in him to be a like-for-like replacement. He certainly set social media all agog on Sunday, with some finding an uncanny similarity between his innings and Australian Chris Lynn’s murderous knock for the Knights against the now-defunct Gujarat Lions quite a few years ago.

‘’Salty looked brilliant today. He has always looked in great touch,’’ said Sunil Narine, the other half of the odd couple that has been giving the Knights their headstart in the powerplay overs. The scenario is a sea change from four months back, when a snub at the Dubai auction left the batter–keeper of Welsh origin disappointed and hurt.

After all, he didn’t do badly in his first IPL bow with the Delhi Capitals last year, after being sold for his base price of Rs 2 crore — raking up 218 runs in 9 games at an eye-catching strike rate of 163.91. He was subsequently released after the Capitals endured a poor season and then entered this year’s auction with a base price of Rs 1.50 crore — only to find no takers.

As if to prove a point, Salt was on fire a few hours later, as he hit 10 sixes on his way to a 57-ball 119 — his second consecutive T20I hundred in the West Indies — to lay the platform for England’s series-levelling win.

‘’It was a confusing morning. I expected to be picked up, having gone there last year and done well and after the year that I’ve had, but these things happen,’’ he told the media after that explosive knock.

Salt’s back-to-back centuries in West Indies had a total of 19 sixes — something which he admitted to being a result of having worked specifically on his six-hitting skills on the off-side. ‘’I’ve worked specifically on hitting sixes over the off-side. I’ve always been good at hitting the sight screen and going over the leg side. That’s an area I’ve been working on for a good while, so it's good to see it's working,’’ he said.

At 27, the free-stroking Salt is clearly a product of the assembly line of English cricketers from the Eoin Morgan school. His flamboyance at the top of the order has earned him invites to play T20 leagues around the world — the BBL (Big Bash League), the PSL (Pakistan Super League) and the CPL (Caribbean Premier League) as well as the IPL. He received an England call-up in 2019 too, but had to wait another two years to make his debut when a fresh England squad was announced to face Pakistan in a home ODI series following the pandemic.

A string of rousing performances in the IPL 2024, like the one on Sunday afternoon, will certainly come in handy for the Sussex batter, with squad selection for the upcoming T20 World Cup just round the corner!  

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