On Thursday, the eight franchises participating in the 2018 edition of the Indian Premier League confirmed the players they sought to retain for the 11th season of the lucrative Twenty20 league. Some picks were obvious, some surprising.
First, a bit of background. The maximum number of players that each franchise can opt for is five, in two stages. The first is via the Player Retention (held in Mumbai today), and the second through the Right to Match (RTM) which will take place during the IPL player auction on January 27-28. As per the IPL rules, a franchise can have a maximum of either three retentions or three RTMs. Should a franchise not choose to retain a player before the auction, it can have up to three RTMs on the big day.
While it was no surprising to see Royal Challengers Bangalore retain their skipper Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, or Kolkata Knight Riders retain the West Indian pair of Sunil Narine and Andre Russell, or the returning Chennai Super Kings opt for the fabled trio of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, there were some releases that raised eyebrows.
Franchises have the option of getting them back via their RTM cards during the two-day auction later this month, the fact that certain big-ticket players were overlooked will create a buzz.
Two-time IPL winners did not retain the man who led them to glory in 2012 and 2014, Gautam Gambhir. The one-time India opener was credited with turning around the Kolkata-based franchise with his innovative captaincy, crucial batting and selection of certain uncapped Indian and experienced overseas players. In 122 matches for KKR, Gambhir has 3345 runs, with 30 half-centuries. Nobody has scored more.
Similarly, the allrounder Yusuf Pathan, at second on the overall KKR charts, was also not retained.
CSK did not make a push for R Ashwin and Dwayne Bravo, like Dhoni, Raina and Jadeja two players who took the franchise to two IPL titles and two Champions League T20 victories. Bravo twice topped the bowling charts in the IPL, in 2013 and 2015, while Ashwin has been a key figure in the franchise’s bowling since the league began in 2008.
Kings XI Punjab, yet to win the IPL title, did not retain the overseas trio of David Miller, Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell who have scored the bulk of the franchise’s runs down the years.
RCB have not gone for Chris Gayle, who with 3420 runs from 91 matches stands at second in their all-time table, and who in 2012 and 2013 won the Orange Cap for most runs in a season. Gayle’s exploits in an RCB jersey features a record five centuries, a record score of 175* and the most sixes, a whopping 263. While Gayle was disappointing in the last IPL season, with just one half-century in nine innings, the big-hitting opener enjoyed success in other leagues in 2017. Most recently, he hit a record 18 sixes during his unbeaten 146 for Rangpur Riders in the Bangladesh Premier League final. Gayle scored 485 run in the BPL, at a strike-rate of 176.36. Prior to that, he collected 376 runs in the Caribbean Premier League, hitting four fifties in 11 innings.
That RCB retained young Sarfaraz Khan may also come as a surprise to some. The legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal, whose rise to the Indian cricket team came largely based on his success for RCB, and who was the leading wicket-takers in T20I in 2017, was a more expected choice before today.
Mumbai Indians, defending champions and three-time title winners, did not retain their top two wickets-takers, who have not played for any other franchise, Lasith Malinga (179 wickets) and Harbhajan Singh (147). Ditto for their second and third most successful batsmen, Kieron Pollard (2846) and Ambati Rayudu (2635). Also not retained was Krunal Pandya, Man of the Match in last season’s semi-final and final to help deliver Mumbai their third IPL trophy.
Sunrisers Hyderabad retained David Warner and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but passed on, for the time being, Shikhar Dhawan who has scored 2271 runs for them in 75 matches, second only to fellow opener Warner.
Rajasthan Royals, like CSK returning to the IPL after a two-year suspension, went only for Steven Smith while not pursuing the services of fellow Australians Shane Watson and James Faulkner.
Delhi Daredevils, a team that has never won the IPL but who almost every season looks good on paper – and who have also made some huge spends with minimal results – chose to retain only Chris Morris, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer.
Will the overlooked players get snapped up at the IPL player auction? It promises to be a talking point for the next couple of weeks.