IPL Auction 2018 Pre-Auction Strategies: Indian Player Analysis

24th January, 2018

As I mentioned several times in my recent article 'How to win a T20 league', recruiting strong domestic players is a key driver to success for T20 teams.  With the IPL Auction just days away, this article looks at the Indian players at the forefront of the market (between 1 and 2 Crore base price).

At this point, some readers may be wondering why I am not also assessing Indian players with a lower base price, in an attempt to find some low-profile players who offer great value to franchises.  My answer to this is simple - I already have, and there are plenty - but at this point, this information is too sensitive for me to publish in the public domain, as an IPL franchise would find this work extremely valuable.

2 Crore Base Price:-

Ravichandran Ashwin - Already highlighted by MS Dhoni as a player that Chennai Super Kings will aggressively chase, Ashwin is a quality spin bowling all-rounder.  Ashwin's primary talents lie with the ball, as evidenced by his expected IPL average of 24.27, and economy rate 6.84, but he offers options with the bat too, with an expected IPL batting average of 24.96 and strike rate 132.78.

Given Dhoni's failure to keep his cards close to his chest, it will be interesting to see if other franchises also bid heavily on Ashwin in an attempt to inflate the final price that Chennai will have to consider worth paying.

Yuzvendra Chahal - A wicket-taking spin bowler, Chahal is likely to be another player in demand in the upcoming IPL auction.  Our algorithm gave him a superb expected IPL 2018 average of 21.86, with an expected economy relatively weaker (but still around tournament average) at 8.32.  

Shikhar Dhawan - A top order batsman who doesn't score as quickly as I would like, our algorithms gave Dhawan a strong expected IPL average of 32.54, but with a below average strike rate of 120.72.   Dhawan's low strike rate but reasonable boundary percentage (just over 16% in the last two years) would indicate that he plays too many dot balls, and has a lower strike rate against spin bowling.  Addressing this would enable him to boost his strike rate to around the IPL average in excess of 130.

Gautam Gambhir - Boasting marginally better batting data than Dhawan, Gambhir's expected IPL average of 37.36 is elite-level.  However, his expected strike rate of 122.47 isn't, and he will need to find players to play aggressively around him, otherwise he would have the potential to stagnate an innings.  As with Dhawan, his boundary percentage slightly above 16% would indicate that avoiding playing too many dot balls would improve his strike rate.

Kedar Jadhav - Despite a lower average than either Dhawan or Gambhir, I prefer Jadhav's expected IPL data, which shows him to have an average of 24.46, and strike rate 133.83, given that his strike rate would have less potential to stagnate an innings.  However, there are still better options when looking at him primarily as a batsman (either in these high profile lists or among the players with a cheaper base price) given that these expected numbers are very close to the IPL mean figures for both metrics.  Having said this, Jadhav's boundary percentage last year in the IPL was excellent, at 18.82%, and I'll expect him to be of interest to franchises.

Dinesh Karthik - Karthik's ability to keep wicket as well as bat in the top order will see him be very popular among franchises, particularly considering that his batting data is good enough to be a batsman alone (and better than the three top order batsmen above).  Our algorithm gives Karthik an expected IPL average of 31.53, and strike rate 137.14, although it's worth noting that his strike rate against spin last year requires improvement.  

Dinesh Karthik is likely to be in demand from franchises...

Murali Vijay - Another batsman whose strike rate would need improvement, our algorithm gave Vijay a solid enough expected average of 27.52, but strike rate low at 117.70, although recent T20 data is hard to come by given that he missed last year's IPL due to a shoulder injury.  Given strike rate concerns and lack of recent T20 matches, would be a risk.

Ajinkya Rahane - Yet another top order batsman with work to do on their strike rate (there's a recurring theme here), Rahane's expected IPL average is very strong, at 32.30, but with an expected strike rate of 120.46, would be unlikely to accumulate these runs quickly.   

Rahane's main strike rate issue is his recent inability to score quickly against spin bowling (strike rate around 110 in the last two IPL editions against spin bowling), and he'd be a prime candidate to bowl occasional spinners against in an attempt to steal cheap overs.

Lokesh Rahul - Another player who missed the 2017 IPL with a shoulder injury, but compared to the other batsmen above, he is a player I'd be much keener on.  Rahul has an expected IPL average of 43.37, with an expected strike rate of 140.64, and this marks him out to be a T20 batsman of real class, with solid strike rates against both pace and spin bowling.  Not only this, Rahul has hit almost 20% of balls faced for boundaries across the 2016 IPL and in T20 internationals from 2016 onwards, establishing him as a top-drawer boundary hitter.  

If I was recruiting for an IPL franchise, here is a domestic batsman that I'd be trying my best to sign.

Karn Sharma - A spin bowling all-rounder whose data shows him to be more competent towards bowling, Sharma's expected bowling numbers are pretty much at the IPL mean expected figures for average and economy.  The fact that Sharma can also bat will attract him to franchises, although given he will be primarily signed as a bowler, I'd prefer him to have a higher expected strike rate than 121.62.  Sharma's poor boundary hitting percentage of just below 13% across the last three IPL editions shows that he should be looking to improve how quickly he scores by hitting more boundaries when coming in later in an innings.

Yuvraj Singh - 36 year old batting all-rounder, who can bowl occasional spin, Yuvraj is one of the legends of T20 cricket in India.  However, there are signs that his powers are on the wane, with our algorithm giving him an expected IPL average of 25.31, with a strike rate of 124.92.  Yuvraj's main issue is his strike rate against spin bowling, which is barely above 100 across the last two IPLs and in T20 internationals since 2016.  His bowling offers something though, particularly from an economy basis.

Harbhajan Singh - At 37 years of age, he's another high-profile veteran player, and analysis of Harbhajan's expected data is fascinating.  His bowling has more of an economy dynamic about it these days, with our giving him a stellar expected economy rate of just 6.95 for this year's IPL, but he offers relatively less of a wicket-taking threat, with an expected bowling average of 37.11.  Harbhajan can also bat, but hasn't scored at a high strike rate in the last two IPL editions - his 2015 batting data was much better and shows that perhaps he does have some upside with the bat.

Harbhajan Singh's expected bowling data is very economical...

Robin Uthappa - Here is another batsman I'd be keen on signing.  Uthappa's expected IPL average is solid enough, at 27.02, but his expected strike rate of 148.32 and 20.99% boundary percentage across the last two IPL editions makes him a very quick scoring boundary hitter - just what franchises should be looking for from a domestic batsman, who can also usefully keep wicket as well.  Has a slight bias towards facing spin bowling, but his strike rates against pace are good as well.


1.5 Crore Base Price:-


Amit Mishra - A spin bowler likely to be in demand among franchises, Mishra's expected data marks him out to be quite a bit better than average, with an expected IPL bowling average of 25.28 and an expected economy rate of 7.89.  Would be one to consider.

Amit Mishra's bowling expectations make him a spinner worth considering at the IPL auction...


Jaydev Unadkat - One of the best T20 bowlers of the last year, Unadkat's expected bowling average of 22.79 is one of the best in the draft list, and it is extremely likely that franchises will be pursuing Unadkat in the upcoming auction.  In addition, an expected bowling economy of 7.97 is decent, and he can also bat a bit as well - one to keep an eye on.

Kuldeep Yadav - At 23 years of age, one of the younger domestic players with a high base price, Yadav should have upside from an age perspective.  However, his expected data isn't particularly special (expected IPL bowling average of 32.02, economy 8.18) and while he can bat, his expected strike rate just above 80 shows that he would want to improve his hitting as well.  Despite this, given that he has been playing T20 internationals for India, I expect him to be fought over by franchises, but in my opinion there are better options.

Mohit Sharma - 29 year old medium-fast bowler, Sharma is another player whose expected data isn't particularly strong - his expected IPL bowling average of 37.50 and expected economy of 8.60 establish him as a below average bowler in T20.  Across the last three IPLs, he has taken 40 wickets, but gone for almost 1,300 runs.

Washington Sundar - Now here is a superstar that franchises should give serious consideration to signing.  Sundar's numbers in lower-profile Indian T20 competitions prior to last year's event made his success for the Rising Pune Supergiant virtually inevitable, and he is a spin bowler of real quality.

Our algorithm gives Sundar an expected IPL bowling average of 21.05, and economy rate 6.78, and he can bat too, with an expected batting average of 34.10 and strike rate 127.29.  He has had strike rate issues in the past, but recent performances indicate he is addressing this.  

Washington Sundar is one to break the bank for.


1 Crore Base Price:-


Manish Pandey - Top order batsman with more of a strength towards his average than strike rate, Pandey still offers better data than some of the 2 crore batsmen, with an expected average of 31.51 and strike rate 129.62.  One of the better high-profile Indian T20 batsmen although from 2016 onwards across IPLs and T20 internationals, Pandey's boundary percentage of around 13% shows he's more of a strike rotator than a boundary hitter.

Mohammed Shami - Pace bowler who is likely to be very expensive from an economy perspective, our algorithm gave Shami an expected IPL 2018 economy rate of 9.90, with an expected bowling average of 39.80.  Given that his figures across the last two IPL editions read 51.1 overs, 487 runs, 10 wickets, such mediocre bowling expected numbers are not entirely a surprise...

Mohammed Siraj - As well as Washington Sundar, another player I expected big things of prior to last year's IPL was Mohammed Siraj, and 10 wickets at 21.20 showed him to be a success, albeit at an economy of around 9 runs per over.  Subsequently, national team honours have beckoned, and our algorithm makes Siraj to be a relatively expensive bowler, but a real wicket taking threat.  His expected IPL bowling average of 24.56 and expected economy of 9.05 reflects this.

Parthiv Patel - A wicket-keeper batsman with just above average batting expectation numbers, I expect Patel to be in demand from franchises in the upcoming IPL auction - having a domestic wicket-keeper who is decent with the bat is a good asset for T20 teams.  Parthiv's expected average of 25.64 and strike rate 136.23 are decent and his boundary percentage, almost at 19% of balls faced, is very strong.  One to consider.

Piyush Chawla - Another decent spinner with solid expected data, Chawla is a player who should be in demand from franchises - with an excellent expected bowling average of 23.91 and solid economy of 8.00.  Also worth noting that Chawla is not a mug with the bat either, with an expected batting average of around 10.

Sanju Samson - Samson has similar data to many of the other Indian high-profile batsmen, in that he is relatively decent from an average perspective (expected average of 27.33) but nothing special from a strike-rate point of view (expected 126.82).  However, given that Samson really improved his strike rates and boundary hitting in the 2017 IPL (SR 141, boundary hitting almost 19%), he definitely has scope for improvement at the relatively young age of 23 and could be one to keep an eye on.

Umesh Yadav - A wicket-taking pace bowler, our algorithm gives Yadav an excellent expected bowling average of 23.85, but relatively worse economy, at 8.64.  Teams looking for a real wicket-taking threat may consider Yadav, whose batting for a bowler isn't the worst, with an expected bating average of around 10, and expected strike rate of 125.

Vinay Kumar - A bowling all-rounder with national team experience across all three formats, Vinay Kumar has shown increasing abilities with the bat in recent years in lower profile Indian T20 events, giving him a very sold expected average of 26.07.  However, from a strike rate (expected 116.26) perspective, this could do with some improvement.  An expected bowling average of 37.56 makes it unlikely that he will be a consistent wicket-taker, although an expected economy of 8.20 isn't bad at all, for the IPL.

Wriddhiman Saha - Another domestic wicket-keeper/batsman, Saha's batting figures according to our algorithm are a touch below average, with an expected average of 24.83, and strike rate 128.54.  The main reason for this is a mediocre strike rate against spin bowling in the last two editions of the IPL, which makes it strange that he was utilised towards the top of the order by Kings XI last season - he'd probably be better batting more during the death overs.


Conclusions:-

Players that I would be very keen on signing: Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Dinesh Karthik, Lokesh Rahul, Robin Uthappa, Jaydev Unadkat, Washington Sundar.

Players that I would shortlist for consideration, depending on market prices: Kedar Jadhav, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Siraj, Parthiv Patel, Sanju Samson, Umesh Yadav.

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