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IPL: Big bucks, bigger stakes: Can high-priced players live up to expectations?

Every year in the Indian Premier League (IPL), some players receive a lot of attention in the auction with big monies splurged on them.

The high price tag brings along with it huge expectations and many a times the players have failed to fire, thus leaving the franchises ruing their decision to spend so much money on them.

Take the case of current England Test captain and all-rounder Ben Stokes, who was the Most Valuable Player of the 2017 auction for the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiants and was bought by Rajasthan Royals for Rs 12.50 crore in the 2018 auction.

Stokes had a disappointing run in IPL 2018 as he could manage only 198 runs and bag eight wickets in 13 matches in that season.

In the 2019 auction, Rajasthan Royals secured the services of Indian pacer Jaydev Unadkat for Rs 8.4 crore, making him the joint most expensive player. But Unadkat, who was also picked by Royals in the 2018 edition, failed to fire in the 2019 season too as he claimed 10 wickets in 11 matches.

Australia’s current Test captain Pat Cummins was the costliest player in the 2020 auction with a price tag of Rs 15.5 crore splurged on him by the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Cummins achieved moderate success in that season, claiming 12 wickets in 14 matches and scoring 146 runs at an average of 20.85. But the franchise expected much more from him considering the amount it spent on securing his services.

Though Cummins is giving IPL 2023 a miss to keep himself fresh for the Ashes and the 50-over World Cup scheduled later this year, some players have been bought for big monies in one of the big-spending auctions and will therefore have to shoulder high expectations commensurate with the high price tag.

Sam Curran: Top buy, higher expectations

England all-rounder and white-ball expert Sam Curran turned out to be the costliest buy in the history of IPL when Punjab Kings signed him up for a whopping Rs 18.5 crore.

Named Player of the Final and Tournament at the 2022 T20 World Cup, Curran will be under the spotlight throughout IPL 2023, starting March 31, and his performance in every match will be scrutinised and the astronomical price tag will be bandied about in case he fails to fire.

The Punjab Kings splurged a huge amount on Sam Curran considering his value and the skillsets he brings to the team as a fast bowler and an explosive batter.

With the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) refusing to give Jonny Bairstow the NOC to turn out for Punjab Kings (PBKS) and with Liam Livingstone returning from the knee and ankle injury he suffered during England’s tour of Pakistan in December 2022, Curran will be under a lot of pressure to not only take wickets, but also act as the finisher in the team.

Cameron Green: All-round show expected

Mumbai Indians spent Rs 17.5 crore to sign the young Australian all-rounder Cameron Green, who has taken the cricket world by storm by excelling in both red-ball and white-ball cricket. He was Australia’s top performer in the T20 series in India last year, when he made 118 runs, including two half-centuries, after being promoted to open the innings.

Though he returned from an injury only before the fourth and final Test of the recent Border-Gavaskar Trophy, he landed on his feet running as he scored his maiden Test century in the Ahmedabad Test.

Green gives Mumbai Indians multiple options as a batter as he can open the innings or operate in the middle-order and also add value to the side as a bowler.

Mumbai Indians will be hoping that he continues with his superb touch and help the team succeed in IPL 2023 after their nightmarish season in 2022.

Ben Stokes: CSK’s big hope

Normally a thrifty operator in IPL auctions, the Chennai Super Kings spent Rs 16.25 crore to sign up Ben Stokes as the England all-rounder is considered a future captaincy material when M.S. Dhoni bids goodbye to IPL.

With his skillsets and leadership qualities in mind, CSK have splurged big on Stokes, and now it is to be seen how successful their investment proves. Stokes has got permission from the ECB to participate in the IPL, but the England captain is expected to leave early to prepare for the Ashes.

Mayank Agarwal: Sunrisers’ big hope

India’s out-of-favour batter Mayank Agarwal was released by Punjab Kings, for whom he played since 2018 and led them in the 2022 edition.

Sunrisers Hyderabad, looking for a captaincy option, bought him for Rs 8.25 crore, making him one of the top Indian buys in the 2023 auction. Agarwal has scored 2,331 runs at a strike rate of 134.51 in IPL so far, but he will be under pressure as he will be under the constant scrutiny considering his previous success in the league.

Though SRH has picked Aiden Markram as the new captain, Agarwal was in contention till the last minute before the vote went in favour of Markram, who led the Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the SA20 title in January 2023.

SRH will be hoping that Markram, who captained South Africa U-19 to a World Cup triumph, will lead them to their third title in IPL.

Hardik Pandya: Expectations of another title

Besides players with high price tags, there will be huge expectations from other big stars who were retained by their respective franchises. Take the case of Hardik Pandya, who will have to shoulder tremendous pressure as everyone will be expecting him to lead the Gujarat Titans to another title and prove that their victory in their debut season last year was no fluke.

Pandya has done well as captain of the India T20I team and is the vice-captain of India’s ODI team. He has now started bowling regularly after recovering from an injury that had kept him out of the Indian team for many matches, and therefore he will have to shoulder a lot of workload in both batting and bowling departments.

Only time will tell if Pandya, just like the costliest players of the auction, will be able to live up to the expectations and fulfil the demands of a vigorous tournament like the IPL. But this much is sure, after every match in the IPL, there will be people sitting with their calculators working out whether the players that have attracted big monies in the auction have lived up to their price tags.

Value for money will definitely be the buzzword in IPL 2023 after the costliest auction.

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