By Jack Vavasour
The IPL is a competition shrouded in mystery and intrigue for the foreign viewer. The auctioning system itself alien and confusing, yet what we do know is that this season there are ten English players (eleven if you include Jofra Archer) venturing to India to participate in this prestigious competition.
This year’s tournament is the twelfth instalment of the IPL and has already seen its fair share of controversies, as is the nature of franchise cricket. The auction itself was rather pain free. The big stories being that Sam Curran and Jonny Bairstow were signed for their inaugural IPL seasons. Curran went for £800,000 which at the age of just 20 years old is ridiculously impressive.
Curran was the star of the summer for England following his Test debut and has been on a rapid ascent ever since. His price is not a surprise due to his ability to both bowl and bat, and much like Ben Stokes he is an aggressive player who can turn a game for his side.
Kings XI Punjab will see it as a fantastic piece of business, all that waits to be seen now is whether he will perform under such high pressure in the biggest competition in the world. Not all players can hack it, Tymal Mills, for example, was a marquee signing in 2017 as he went for £1.4 million to Royal Challengers Bangalore. Mills had performed in numerous franchise competitions yet has not returned to the IPL since due to a poor tournament.
Bairstow was signed for £250,000 and can also be considered as a worthwhile signing as a fearless opening batsman. Bairstow has been a constant in England’s Test side in recent years and has recently cemented himself at the top of the order in ODIs as well, proving a perfect fit for England’s apparent hit out or get out approach to one day cricket.
Elsewhere, the ever impressive and improving Joe Denly was snatched up by the Kolkata Knight Riders. Denly again is a highly sought after commodity as he brings both an ability to bat and the rare talent of leg spin.
In India spinners are especially dangerous and having an extra one in your starting XI is something that all sides will not underestimate. Harry Gurney, an England International briefly in 2014, was also brought by Kolkata. Somewhat a surprise signing, yet following his successful BBL campaign with the Melbourne Renegades it seems as if he may become a franchise cricketer.
Just last week he announced his decision to stop playing red ball cricket and focus upon his white ball game. Another new face heading to India is Lancashire captain Liam Livingstone. Another surprising selection yet also an extremely talented cricketer who has a big future ahead of him in all formats of the game and at every level. The English contingent is strong this year and all will be hoping to make an impact.
One of the stories of this season has been the return of Steve Smith and David Warner to IPL cricket. Warner scored 85 on his return, putting on a century opening stand with Bairstow for Sunrisers Hyderabad in their opening game of the season. Sadly this didn’t stop his side slipping to defeat against Kolkata. Smith fared less well on his return as he only managed to accumulate 20 runs as Rajasthan Royals failed to chase Punjab’s 184.
Rajasthan’s game against Punjab raised the competitions biggest controversy as Ravi Ashwin ran Jos Buttler out. Yet this was not a regular run out as it came before the ball had even been bowled. Buttler was backing up and Ashwin, during his run up, noticed Buttler was out of his crease so knocked the bails off. Buttler is one of the world’s most devastating batsmen and was on 69 at the time of his dismissal.
Many believe that this action is not within the spirit of the game. Ashwin responded that if it is within the laws of the game then his actions are justified. ‘Mankad’, as it is commonly known, is technically legal. Yet the spirit of cricket is such that it is seen as bad form. Cricket history is dotted with numerous examples of unsporting conduct. The underarm incident of 1981, as Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to rule out any possibility of New Zealand hitting a six in order to tie the game. This was within the laws.
When Stuart Broad refused to walk in the 2013 Ashes when he had clearly hit it. There is nothing illegal about his actions, yet when you know you’ve hit it then it is your responsibility to walk. Ashwin is well within his rights to ‘run out’ Buttler and it is Buttler’s responsibility to not stray from his crease. Yet this changed to course of the game as the Royals went on to lose and had Buttler been at the crease then the result could have been very different. Clever tactics, just not within the spirit of the game.
This season looks to be one of the most exciting to date with the competition more fierce than ever. The Royals appear, as ever, to have a strong squad bolstered by the return of Smith and the form of Buttler. Royal Challengers Bangalore have once again recruited well, however, it seems unlikely that they will be able to shake their poor record in the competition and were thrashed in their opening game against Chennai.
Chennai themselves will want to retain the trophy and possess an experienced outfit and very few teams appear to be a threat to such a side, with MS Dhoni at the helm and a plethora of talent surrounding him it seems difficult to bet against the champions.