One of the most important days in the cricketing calender is nearing. The auction for 2020 Indian Premier League is all set to be held on December 19, in Kolkata for the first time. The excitement level among fans and franchises is rising with each passing day, and preparations are underway for the mega event in full swing.
Each franchise will try to make maximum use of the amount available with them, and walk away with the best bargains. Over the years, the IPL auction has thrown up many surprises with some relatively unknown names from India and abroad walking away with hefty pay cheques. Some such choices have proved to be gold while few others have led franchises to regret their options. This year too a few players are likely to get big bids in the auction.
In this feature, we go back in IPL history and look at the five most expensive overseas players in the T20 league.
#5 AB de Villiers -- ₹11 crore
After initially turning out for Delhi Daredevils for the first few seasons, former South African captain AB de Villiers was purchased by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2011 auction. Since then, he has been the pillar of RCB’s batting attack along with captain Virat Kohli. Not surprisingly, RCB have retained him for a salary of Rs 11 crore ahead of the 2020 auction.
While RCB have struggled as a team overall in the IPL, individually de Villiers has rarely disappointed. In the 2015 edition, he smashed 513 runs in 16 games at a strike rate of 175.08 with a hundred against Mumbai. He did even better in 2016 notching up 687 runs at a strike rate of 168.79. This time, he hit an unbeaten 129 against Gujarat Lions.
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RCB finished last in 2019, but de Villiers tried his best scoring 442 runs in 13 games with five fifties. De Villiers’ ability to play outrageous knocks have made him a big hit in India, IPL or otherwise.
#4 Sunil Narine -- ₹12.5 crore
The mystery spinner from West Indies, Sunil Narine joined Kolkata Knight Riders in 2012, and has been with the franchise since. Ahead of the 2020 auction, he was retained by KKR for ₹12.5 crore. Narine did amazingly well for KKR in the initial years, picking up picking up 24, 22 and 21 wickets respectively in 2012, 2013 and 2014 with his unreadable variations.
While the numbers of wickets have dried up in recent years with the controversy around his bowling action and teams getting used to his style and variations, Narine has added another asset to his game. Starting with 2017, he was promoted to open the innings, a move that no franchise could see coming. With his unorthodox batting, Narine notched up 224 runs in 2017 and 357 in 2018 at strike rates of 172.30 and 189.89 respectively.
The runs didn't flow as freely in 2019 as he could manage only 143 in 12 matches. With the ball as well, Narine ended up with just 10 scalps. KKR though have kept their faith in him.
#3 Steve Smith -- ₹12.5 crore
Ahead of the 2020 auction, Steve Smith has been retained by Rajasthan Royals for ₹12.5 crore. After missing out on the 2018 season owing to the ball-tampering ban, Smith not only returned to Royals in 2019, but was also replaced Ajinkya Rahane as captain mid-way through the season. He had a reasonable run with the bat, making 319 runs in 12 games at a strike rate of 116.
Given the form that he is, Royals will expect much more from Smith in the coming season. Smith had a sensational season in 2017, playing for Rising Pune Supergiant as Royals were suspended from the IPL. He took over the team’s reins from MS Dhoni and led the side to the final, making 472 runs in 15 games.
Smith made 51 in the final against Mumbai Indians, but RPS fell inches short of the victory line. Royals would be seeking similar magic from Smith.
#2 David Warner -- ₹12.5 crore
Apart from being involved in the ball-tampering scandal, another similarity binds Smith and David Warner. They both earn the same salary in IPL. Like Smith, Warner too has been retained by his franchise, Sunrisers Hyderabad, for ₹12.5 crore.
Warner has been among the most successful overseas players in the history of IPL. He led the franchise to their only title win in 2016, amassing 848 runs in 17 games at a strike rate of 151.42 with as many as nine fifties. In fact, starting with 2014, the year in which he joined Sunrisers, Warner has crossed 500 runs in every edition. He notched up 641 runs in 14 matches in 2017, and 692 runs in 12 games in 2019. Warner hit a century each in both these editions, and formed a formidable pairing with Englishman Jonny Bairstow in the most recent season.
With his big-hitting ability and consistency, Warner must have given nightmares to many bowlers in the IPL.
#1 Ben Stokes -- ₹14.5 crore
Much before he became a World Cup superstar, Rising Pune Supergiant realised Ben Stokes’ potential and purchased him for a whopping Rs 14.5 crore at the 2017 auction. Stokes proved his worth as an all-rounder with 316 runs in 12 matches at a strike rate of 142.98, which included a hundred. He also chipped in with the ball, claiming 12 wickets at a strike rate of 22.00 and an impressive economy rate of 7.18 with a best of 3 for 18.
Stokes’ value as a cricketer with great all-round ability was evident in this season, and the fans saw it at a global stage during the 2019 World Cup. Stokes subsequently moved to Rajasthan Royals in 2018 for Rs 12.5 crore. He has not done all that well in the last two seasons -- scoring under 200 runs and picking less than 10 wickets. However, World Cup-winner Stokes is a completely different proposition and, in the wake of his recent heroics, Royals were left with no option but to retain him for the 2020 season.
It remains to be seen whether Stokes can repeat his heroics at the IPL level.