Kochi: Gujarat Titans’ first buy of the IPL 2023 mini-auction was former Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Kane Williamson. The defending champions Titans managed to acquire the services of an elegant right-hander for the base price of Rs 2 crore. No other team showed interest in the Kiwi but the Titans were convinced about getting him on board and were ready to shed even more.
“Somebody like Williamson will bring in so much experience. He is a proven player, didn’t have a couple of good IPL seasons but IPL is so fast-paced that it takes very little time for thinking and perception to change. For us, if he would have gone for much more, we would have still gone for Kane Williamson. We believe in that player and wanted to have that mix of experience and youth. Kane brings a lot to the table for any team. We are privileged that we could have him, and on top of that at base price,” Gujarat Titans head coach Ashish Nehra said at a media interaction in Kochi.
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Nehra added that the team is looking at a No.3 role for Williamson, and the move is not likely to affect the template they had last season. The only possible change could be the young and talented Sai Sudarshan, who has been very consistent in the domestic circuit this year, not getting enough game time.
“We are talking about somebody like Sai Sudarshan who is young and has time. And the presence of Kane Williamson will only help him. Even last year, it wasn’t that Sai Sudarshan played all games. Just imagine how much Sai would gain with the presence of Kane Williamson around him. Har player ka time aata hai… there are other young players but again there is no option but to wait for your chance,” said Nehra.
With Kane expected to marshal the top order with the likes of Shubman Gill and Wriddhiman Saha (who opened for most of the last season), is there a possibility of seeing Hardik return to the finisher role? Nehra had a typical Nehra response to this.
“Hardik Pandya last year also batted at No.4. I think only once he batted at No.3. If Kane Williamson would be there, he will bat at No.3 and Hardik will bat at No.4. But again these calls would be better closer to the season. And, it’s not that people who bat higher up the order can’t finish games. Even an opener can be your finisher if he bats right till the end,” quipped the former India seamer.
How signing Kane at base price helped GT
Titans were ready to shell out more for Kane but were lucky to seal the deal with the first and only bid at a base price of Rs 2 crore. This allowed them to go heavy on something they desperately wanted in their ranks. Ahead of the auction, Nehra had shared that a good fast bowler was on their wishlist and they managed to complete two good buys.
“The price at which we got Kane allowed us to pick both (Mavi and Little) the seamers. It’s a short auction and when you talk about supply and demand, Shivam Mavi was right up there as top three bowlers. Another was Mukesh Kumar who too has gone for good money. Mavi is a good athlete and is a youngster and from where we are right now, we will give him a good opportunity and help him. And if does well, it will be good for Indian cricket also. We are looking forward to working with both Joshua Little and Shivam Mavi,” said Nehra.
‘Age is just a number’
Wriddhiman Saha, out of Test reckoning now, turned out for Tripura in the domestic circuit but hasn’t really set the stage on fire for the side he is leading this season. For their third buy of the day, Titans went aggressively for KS Bharat and managed to get him for Rs 1.2 crore. Nehra insists it is not a succession plan for Saha but just a backup to keep the options open as the second wicketkeeper in the squad, Mathew Wade, is a foreign player.
“We have someone like Saha and I have always said that if you talk about any cricket and not just IPL, age is just a number. Even injuries are likely to happen and our second wicketkeeper is Matthew Wade who is a foreigner. Had Saha been 28 years old, we would have still looked for a wicketkeeper as a backup. And if you talk about KS Bharat, I don’t see anybody as experienced as KS Bharat in playing other franchises, playing India A. So we were lucky again,” said Nehra.
England players dominate
England players were in demand at the mini-auction. Some of the top buys were English players and the likes of Sam Curran (Rs 18.5 crore to Punjab Kings), Ben Stokes (Rs 16.25 crore to CSK), and Harry Brook (Rs 13.25 crore) took home most of the money which was spent. England have continued to dominate white-ball formats for years and Nehra feels it does make a difference but at the end of the day every franchise just wants quality and nationality is not something which is considered or taken into account.
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“If your international team does well… England won the 50-over World Cup and also the T20 World Cup, and the way they are playing white-ball cricket. It certainly makes a difference. Every franchise doesn’t look at the country-wise way, whether it’s England or South Africa, they just want quality players in the team. And there’s no doubt about England team and players which are doing very well right now. Now there is an example of Cameron Green who has not played many T20s for Australia but is extremely talented. So teams look at talent too. So I am not surprised to see these big names and England players being the big buys,” said Nehra.
From the Titans’ point of view, it was their first mini-auction and the team had already retained their core from the previous season. With the purse they had, Nehra said they were anyway not looking at someone like Sam Curran or Cameron Green and the management had a few spots in mind to fill.
“First you need to see how much funds you have and what you need. Auction is not like you will get whatever six-eight players you need. Very rarely it happens but we were lucky to get what we wanted and still have some money left. We knew earlier also that we can’t go for somebody like Stokes or Green or Curran because they are going to go big. We are happy to fill the slots we wanted to fill. I’m very surprised that we got somebody like Kane Williamson at base price,” said Nehra
Impact Player effect? ‘Not really’
Nehra lauded the Impact Player rule for what it brings to the table but was quick to add that Titans’ strategy due to the new tactical move didn’t change.
“There is no need to have too much change in the strategy due to the Impact Player rule. When you talk about white-ball cricket, it’s difficult to say which rule is okay because if you look at the last few years, so many rules have changed in the 50-over format too. Even stats, for people who in believe stats, have kept changing with the rules. Many years back we had supersub.
“This is similar to that but the only difference is that then we had to give one name and here we can choose from four names. There have been numerous rules introduced in white-ball cricket and other sports too, but as a player, an international sportsperson, I think the only thing you can do is get comfortable with the changes which are only going to make the game more exciting,” said Nehra.
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