Exclusives

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Delhi Daredevils spent 31 crore out of a purse of 37.15 on acquiring the services of 14 cricketers.
Pawan Negi became a multi-millionaire with the GMR-owned forking out 8.5 crore on him.
At 7 crore, Morris went 14 times his base price of Rs 50 lakh.
Pawan Negi became a multi-millionaire.
NEW DELHI: On Saturday at the IPL player auction, Delhi Daredevils spent 31 crore out of a purse of 37.15 on acquiring the services of 14 cricketers, out of which 27.9 crore went on five. Headlining the day’s big purchases was the 23-year-old spin-bowling allrounder from Delhi, Pawan Negi, who became a multi-millionaire with the GMR-owned forking out 8.5 crore on him. That put Negi as the second most expensive buy after Shane Watson at 9.5 crore, and higher than names such as Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra, Kevin Pietersen and Dinesh Karthik.
Daredevil’s next biggest spend was for the South African allrounder Chris Morris, who went for 14 times his base price of Rs 50 lakh. At 7 crore, Morris was joint with Yuvraj in terms of pay deals. Others to receive multi-crore pay checks were Sanju Samson (4.2 crore), the West Indian Carlos Braithwate (4.2 crore) and Karun Nair (4 crore).
According to Daredevils CEO Hemant Dua, the focus was clearly on investing in youth, and that barring one player the franchise got each of the targets they had set. TOI Sports spoke to him on Sunday to get the lowdown on how Daredevils chose to spend.
Excerpts:
Before I come to the big talking point, could you take us back to the offseason, when the decision was taken to release Yuvraj Singh and Angelo Mathew to relax your spending purse. What was the decision there?
I’ve been at the helm for the last three years, but its only the last two years that I’ve been really involved with the cricket aspect. The last two years, I’ve really been focusing on learning the intricacies of the game, how players operate and how things go. Post the last season we did a lot of thinking and analysing and I saw a pattern. We’ve been picking big stars, we had a star studded team since 2008, every year. We’ve banked on them but somehow it hasn’t really paid dividends. Coming from America, where there’s a formula to picking professional sports teams. In the IPL, Rajasthan Royals have really done that well. Its the ‘Moneyball’ method.
The whole team put time together and analysed what was the big thing that came out of the last season. And that was Shreyas Iyer, a result of talent scouting and investing. He was kind of the only light from last season. He came out of nowhere and ended up being the Emerging Player of the Tournament, and he ratified that by again performing in the Ranji Trophy. He’s the highest run-getter this season.
It got us thinking: Is that the approach we need to take? We sat down and really put our minds to it during the off season and decided to go with this approach this year, to invest in youth, invest in potential. What is the harm there? Shreyas is a youngster who came in with one year of Ranji Trophy cricket to his credit, he’d played India A before and he delivered. So we thought, why cant we do this again, on a wider level? That is the approach you saw when we released those big players.
We kept everybody who’s a youngster, who’s a performer. We kept Quinton de Kock, who’s performing, and we kept JP Duminy, who is experienced and our captain. We kept Mayank Agarwal, who’s been on and off but has potential. We feel he can deliver for us. He delivered this domestic season, which is encouraging. He clicked well with Shreyas. We kept [Shahbaz] Nadeem and Nathan Coulter-Nile and other youngsters. On the experience side, we kept Mohammed Shami, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, which gives us an experienced bowling attack.

Chris Morris went for 14 times his base price.
How does a franchise put a value on a player? How do you determine that 8.5 crore or 7 crore is worth it?
People say ‘oh Pawan Negi went for 8.5 crore, Chris Morris went for 7 crore’. Look, an auction is a process. I’m not going and bidding for someone at 7-8 crore; there’s someone else driving to the hotel who’s as hungry for those players as I am. That’s what the auction dynamics are all about. People need to understand that I didn’t want to pay Negi 8.5 crore or Morris 7 crore. I would have been happy to get them at the least possible price. But there’s someone else who wants them as badly as I want them, so prices go up.
Pawan Negi got paid for his x-factor. You tell me – Stephen Fleming and MS Dhoni knew something about him, right? That’s why they wanted him so badly. They [Rising Pune Super Giants] went upto 8 crore for him. There was a reason. I’m sure there’s something good about that guy when two guys from the most successful franchise go after him like that. So we were right about what we wanted.
Chris Morris is 27. Look at his record of death bowling and he’s probably the best bowler in T20s, at that stage of an innings. He’s got a lovely slower ball, and he can whack it with the bat down the order too. He hit that critical six against us last season in the game against Rajasthan Royals [RR needed 13 off 11 balls and Morris hit his first ball for six] to help win the game, and that adds to his all-round value. Solid catcher too.
We as a franchise were very clear about who we wanted. We did not bid on any player that we were not looking to buy. We were sitting quietly as the whole Marquee round passed by. We did not bid. There was a plan in place. We’ve got everybody we wanted except for Nathu Singh.
So each person you purchased was on your list?
Absolutely. There was a lot of preparation. We did almost 20 or 22 mock auctions, all here in India, to understand and prepare for Saturday. We had a whole scouting team comprising TA Sekhar, Sunil Valson, Pravim Amre, [Sridharan] Sriram and Zubin Barucha which was all out there looking at players. We shortlisted names and had a three-day camp where we called guys for trials and had a good look at them.
And most of the prices were what we were expecting. As a franchise, we all knew Pawan Negi would go up to 6 crore, maybe 7 crore. We’d budgeted for that. He went up to 8.5, that’s fine, its in the range. The only player who went out of whack was Nathu Singh and to an extent Carlos Braithwate.
We knew Kolkata Knight Riders would know him because they’ve bought a team down there [in the Caribbean Premier League]. Nobody else knew about him. There was just KKR and us bidding. I was expecting maybe Sunrisers Hyderabad to bid for him, but once they bought Yuvraj Singh that was out of the picture. Tom Moody is the cricket director at SRH so we thought that possibly he would know about Braithwate. We as a franchise were there during the CPL, visiting and watching.

And you have high hopes from Braithwate?
He’s potentially the next Kieron Pollard. He hits hard, bowls well and is an excellent fielder. I was thinking where he fits in: is he the next Andre Russell or Kieron Pollard? I would rate him more as a Pollard because he bowls that skiddy ball. Definitely one to watch.
On the topic of youth, Daredevils’ batting appears to be one of the youngest in the league, with some of the names you’ve taken, and now with Karun Nair, Sanju Samson, Chama Milind, Akhil Herwadkar and Rishabh Pant. A clear strategy there?
Yes, thats the whole idea – to invest in youngsters. For me, Quinton de Kock is no more a youngster. He’s played enough cricket. He’s definitely not a senior, but he has enough experience and his runs across formats for South Africa recently are showing that. The good thing about Quinton is that he’s always succeeded in India. He’s getting maturer by the day. So with him at the top, we went and picked Sanju Samson, Nair and the names you’ve mentioned. Youngsters, but with enough IPL experience. And that, I think, is going to be our strategy going forward.
This was the first auction where I have literally seen – and I think Rajiv Shukla said it too – that people came prepared. And I mean prepared to the T. Nobody was bidding for players they did not want. This was the first auction which was a waiting auction. What this has done is – and I think this will help cricket in India in a large way – is to expand the number of uncapped players to become millionaires. That has never happened in Indian cricket before.
Nathu Singh, Karun Nair, Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant … Rishabh hasn’t played at senior level and he’s got 1.9 crore. That speaks a lot about the effort that has gone into this season. The young from the Karnataka Premier League, Kishore Kamath, has got big money. Krunal Pandya, who we went for, he got big money. This shows that franchises are ready to invest in youth.
Karun Nair is team-mates with Mayank Agarwal in Karnataka. Is that a factor in picking players – trying to pair up players who have a previous connection or rapport?
Not really, but it helps that guys have played together. That is a good example, two promising young batsmen – similar approach too in T20 cricket – who have combined to help a domestic team win titles. See, today we have a lot of players in the same age bracket – Shreyas Iyer, Mayank Agarwal, Quinton de Kock, Karun Nair, Sanju Samson, Nathan Coulter-Nile – and what that does is create a different team energy. That bonding is essential to a team’s success.
All of these guys, at the end of the day, can be big or small. The league format is so high and puts them under so much pressure, that they are essentially coming in as mercenaries. They all come together from different parts of the world, assemble for two months, do their jobs and then go on their separate ways. How do you get the best out of them? When there are large age differences and large gaps you’ve either got to have two senior players who these guys can look up to and who can mentor them, or you have them in the same age group? When there’s too much diversity, it creates a problem. That is the analysis that I’ve reached.

GMR’s first bid of the day wasn’t until the wicketkeeper’s set, and it was for Sanju Samson. Were you looking for a full-time wicketkeeper or a top-order option, considering you already had de Kock?
Quinton de Kock remains the team ‘keeper. Sanju Samson comes in as batsman and the good part about him is that he’s a versatile player. He can open, he can bat one-down and in the middle order. He’s a great young player. Karun, on the other hand, provides us that middle order solidity. If Mayank and Quinton get going, that’s a potent opening pair. Add Shreyas at three, Sanju Samson at four and then Nair. I’m hoping we’ll have a really good season because we’ve got a great mix, but this team will mature and become better by next year. That heartens me.
On paper, the uncapped Indian players seem good too.
Rishabh Pant is a brilliant prospect, plays Ranji cricket and scored a hundred in the Under-19 World Cup quarter-finals on auction day. Akhil Herwadkar is brilliant. He’s 21 and the second highest run-getter this Ranji season, behind Shreyas. Can bat up the order, bowl some spin too. There will be bloody good competition between him and Mayank for the opener’s role. Rishabh Pant is also there, so there’s competition which is a good thing. People want to perform and that’s what this youthful energy brings to the table. All these guys are in the same age group so it pushes them, makes them think how they’ll get a seat.
I would say the [Mahipal] Lomrors and Khalils are a little far away, but in a year or two they will mature and become better players. What is Lomror? He plays the role that Pawan Negi plays – he can hit the ball, bowl a bit, brings in that x-factor.
What role does Zaheer Khan have in the squad?
Zaheer is more like a mentor. Look at a youngster like Khalil Ahmed, who is 19. Then there’s Pawan Suyal, who is 26. Shami is 25. These bowlers will all benefit Zaheer’s experience. That’s invaluable. This might be Zaheer’s last season. He’s retired from all formats and I don’t know if he has the energy to play further, but the point is that he wants to go out and give it back for the team in a big way. I think its going to work out this season. These bowlers will only become better with Zaheer around. He’s got tremendous experience.
So who are the first choice overseas picks in Daredevils starting XI come the IPL?
That’s a tough one, but I’ll go with de Kock, Coulter-Nile, Morris and JP. It could change depending on the pitches and how players are performing, but those would be my four.

 

Excerpts taken from TOI interview with Jamie Alter