On February 17, 2005, the first ever Twenty20 International was played in Auckland between New Zealand and Australia. The New Zealand players came out wearing fake moustaches and wigs in what was presented as an all fun affair. "I think it is difficult to play seriously," said Ricky Ponting, who led his team to an easy win.
Twelve years on, T20 cricket is now a serious, mean business. Even Ponting, who has been at the helm of affairs with the Mumbai Indians, strategising, forming plans for the auction, won't refute this fact. As things heat up ahead of the Indian Premier League auction on February 20 for the tenth edition of the tournament, teams are busy planning to plug gaps in their squads ahead of the mega event.
Cricbuzz spoke to several personnel associated with the franchises to understand what the teams will be looking for in this auction. With no clarity over the retention policy for the next year, the franchises are likely to hold back on big bids. Having said that, the likes of Ben Stokes, Tymal Mills, Colin De Grandhomme and Kagiso Rabada are expected to pull a significant amount.
Current squad: Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, James Faulkner, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Karthik, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Andrew Tye, Ishan Kishan, Pradeep Sangwan, Shivil Kaushik, Shadab Jakati, Jaydev Shah.
Gujarat Lions had a dream debut season last year, finishing at the top of the league table, before eventually ending third in the tournament. They had invested heavily in Uttar Pradesh players last year, after the domestic side won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy without losing a single match in the season. However, as many as four players from that side have been dropped, besides three other domestic cricketers.
Keshav Bansal, owner of Gujarat Lions, told Cricbuzz, "The sole criteria for releasing players from the side was performance. No other factors were taken into consideration."
They have also left out two spinners - Pravin Tambe and Sarbjit Ladda - from the squad, leaving them thin on the spin reserves. They still have three left-arm spinners in the squad - Ravindra Jadeja, Shivil Kaushik and Shadab Jakati, but there is lack of variety in the attack.
Since they have three of the finest T20 all-rounders in their ranks in Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner and Jadeja, they possess an envious balance. With Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik and the in-form Ishan Kishan expected to fill in the top five slots in the line-up, followed by the three all-rounders, and Aaron Finch as an additional option, the batting department looks quite compact. However, Bansal has confirmed that, apart from beefing up the spin department, they are looking to invest in some Indian batsmen for the middle-order.
The pace department would at best need two specialist pacers, with Bravo and Faulkner expected to feature in most matches. Dhawal Kulkarni and Pravin Kumar filled that role perfectly last season, but Gujarat Lions would do well to have at least one more domestic pacer in the reserves - apart from Pradeep Sangwan, who is already there - keeping in mind form and fitness issues that can crop up during the course of the tournament or even before that.
Even as Bansal refused to divulge any specific details, it has been reliably learnt that Gujarat Lions, who currently have 16 players in their side, will look to buy four more in the upcoming auctions.
Suggested buys: K Gowtham, M Ashwin, T Natarajan, Manoj Tiwary, Irfan Pathan, Rishi Dhawan, Parvez Rasool, Karn Sharma, Jalaj Saxena, Ankit Bawne, Prithvi Shaw and R Samarth
Current squad: Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, David Warner, Moises Henriques, Naman Ojha, Ricky Bhui, Kane Williamson, Siddarth Kaul, Bipul Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Yuvraj Singh, Ben Cutting, Abhimanyu Mithun, Mustafizur Rahman, Barinder Sran, Deepak Hooda, Vijay Shankar.
Having let go Eoin Morgan and Trent Boult, Muttiah Muralitharan, the team's bowling coach, pointed out that they need to fill that void. "The team is already there and we haven't released many players. I would think that we need about five to six players more. What we would be looking at is one overseas batsman and one overseas fast bowler. We have a fair idea, but we haven't sat down and chatted at length about individuals," he said.
Sunrisers will also need a spinner with only Bipul Sharma and Deepak Hooda in their ranks.
Suggested buys: Kagiso Rabada, Tymal Mills, Pat Cummins, Ross Taylor, Colin Munro, Imran Tahrir, Pawan Negi, M Ashwin, Mitchell Santner.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Current squad: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Mitchell Starc, Yuzvendra Chahal, Harshal Patel, Mandeep Singh, Adam Milne, Sarfaraz Khan, S Aravind, Kedar Jadhav, Shane Watson, Stuart Binny, Samuel Badree.
Batting has never been a concern for Royal Challengers. There's a slight possibility that Cricket Australia will pull Mitchell Starc out of the tournament to preserve him for the Champions Trophy. They will need to find bowlers to back their power-packed batting line-up. With Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson and Starc taking up the four overseas slots, they will need Indian reserves in their tank.
"In my three years with RCB, the biggest problem was always our bowling attack. I really think they'll be looking to strengthen the squad with some gun bowlers - probably some Indian bowlers and a couple of world-class overseas bowlers or all-rounders to give some sustenance and back up the likes of Shane Watson. Last year we had an amazing batting lineup, but it was only halfway through the campaign that we managed to be a defensive bowling attack. We've never had an issue with our batting lineup, the big worry for me has always been bowling teams out or being smart enough to become a very defensive bowling lineup," said Allan Donald.
Suggested buys: Ishant Sharma, Nathu Singh, T Natarajan, Irfan Pathan, Trent Boult, Corey Anderson, Pragyan Ojha.
Kings XI Punjab
Current squad: David Miller, Manan Vohra, Axar Patel, Glenn Maxwell, Gurkeerat Singh, Anureet Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Shaun Marsh, Wriddhiman Saha, M Vijay, Nikhil Naik, Mohit Sharma, Marcus Stoinis, KC Cariappa, Armaan Jaffer, Pardeep Sahu, Swapnil Singh, Hashim Amla.
"We are trying to look for a middle-order batsman, foreign and/or Indian; We are looking a legspinner, we want an Indian fast bowler and a foreign fast bowler as well, left-arm or right-arm," Virender Sehwag said. "We're actually just aiming at filling up these gaps for the current lot that we have and that's the only thing I will be concentrating on, where we have looked at a lot of people who have done well for their respective T20 teams of their country. Those are the people we are looking for - the match-winners.
"For example, for Axar, Miller and Maxwell, (we're looking) to have back ups and replacements for each of them so that in case anything goes wrong, we have someone to fill in."
With a number of Indian pacers in their ranks, Kings XI Punjab will look to add at least two allrounder and two overseas pacers in the four overseas slota they have. On the batting front they have more or less a settled line-up while they can look to add Indian spinners as well.
Suggested buys: Karn Sharma, M Ashwin, Eoin Morgan, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Manprit Juneja, Prithvi Shaw, Pat Cummins, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, Ben Stokes, Corey Anderson, Kagiso Rabada, Kesrick Williams.
Kolkata Knight Riders
Current squad: Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Manish Pandey, Suryakumar Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Robin Uthappa, Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Lynn, Umesh Yadav, Yusuf Pathan, Sheldon Jackson, Ankit Singh Rajput.
The biggest headache for Kolkata Knight Riders is to find a replacement for Andre Russell. The all-rounder has been banned for a year and if the ban isn't lifted ahead of the tournament, they will be left without his explosive prowess. They have had a pretty settled squad for the last few seasons but will look to add allrounders and an overseas pacer to their squad. With Jacques Kallis in their think-tank, expect them to go for Kagiso Rabada, whom Kallis has seen from close quarters. The fact that they have just 14 players in the squad gives them power to make a number of buys.
Suggested buys: Ben Stokes, Corey Anderson, Tymal Mills, Mitchell Johnson, Pat Cummins, Chris Woakes, Colin De Grandhomme, Chris Jordan, Kagiso Rabada, Rovman Powell and Darren Sammy.
Current squad: Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh, Ambati Rayudu, Jasprit Bumrah, Shreyas Gopal, Lendl Simmons, Vinay Kumar, Parthiv Patel, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nitish Rana, Siddhesh Lad, J Suchith, Hardik Pandya, Jos Buttler, Tim Southee, Jithesh Sharma, Krunal Pandya, Deepak Punia.
Opening woes troubled Mumbai Indians last season and it won't be surprising if they do spend the big bucks trying to acquire an overseas opener. Their bowling reserves too need to be beefed up despite them having a squad of 20, even after releasing a few players. An Indian pacer will come in handy to support the likes of Mitchell McClenaghan, Tim Southee and Jasprit Bumrah. Expect them to make some big buys, even when they don't need that particular player in that department.
Suggested buys: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shahzad, Colin de Grandhomme, Evin Lewis and David Wiese.
Current squad: JP Duminy, Mohammed Shami, Quinton de Kock, Shahbaz Nadeem, Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra, Shreyas Iyer, Zaheer Khan, Sam Billings, Sanju Samson, Chris Morris, Carlos Brathwaite, Karun Nair, Rishabh Pant, CV Milind, Syed Ahmed, Pratyush Singh.
Delhi Daredevils need to plug several gaps despite having players for that particular department. Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Shami are injury prone and need backup. They will also need replacements for Chris Morris, JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock, who are bound to leave the tournament early. They will also look to infuse some young talents.
Suggested buys: Ishant Sharma, Corey Anderson, Ben Stokes, Mitchell Johnson, Pat Cummins, Kagiso Rabada, David Wiese, Prithvi Shaw and Manan Sharma.
Rising Pune Supergiants
Current squad: MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Steven Smith, Faf du Plessis, Mitchell Marsh, Ashok Dinda, Ankush Bains, Rajat Bhatia, Ankit Sharma, Ishwar Pandey, Adam Zampa, Jaskaran Singh, Baba Aparajith, Deepak Chahar, Usman Khawaja, Mayank Agarwal.
After a rather tough debut season, Rising Pune Supergiants have released several top players from the side. The fact that injury and fitness can be major concerns was learnt well by the franchise last season. As of now, going into the auction, they have virtually no base covered. From openers to middle-order batsmen to spin and pace, every department needs serious beefing up.
Having released Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Thisara Perera, RP Singh, Scott Boland and M Ashwin, Supergiants will looks to bag a few bowlers - Indian and overseas. They need to add allrounders as well if Mitchell Marsh loses form.