MUMBAI: India skipper Virat Kohli became the costliest player to be retained when the Royal Challengers Bangalore paid a whopping Rs17 crore, even as his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni returned to the Chennai Super Kings. However, the biggest surprise packet of the IPL retentions, announced in a jazzy function here on Thursday night was young batsman Sarfaraz Khan, who the RCB chose to retain, apart from Kohli and AB de Villiers, over big guns, West Indian Master Blaster Chris Gayle and India leggie Yuzuvendra Chahal.
After making an impressive debut in the 2015 IPL (111 runs in 13 matches@ 27.75, strike rate: 156. 33 while batting lower down the order) for the RCB as the then youngest player to debut in the IPL (he was 17), Sarfaraz was dropped midway into the team’s campaign last year, with Kohli openly saying that the youngster needed to improve on his fitness. The 20-year-old’s woes increased when he injured his knee in a practice game prior to the 2017 IPL, which forced him to miss the entire domestic season after undergoing an operation.
However, after regaining his fitness and returning to action, Sarfaraz showed off his class when the talented batsman cracked 132 (off 93 balls) and 70 (in 67 balls) against India Under-19 while batting for the National Cricket Academy in two practice games in Bangalore last month. The young turk’s continuation in the RCB line-up is clearly a vote of confidence imposed in him by Kohli.
“Sarfaraz is one of the players we believe will rise to great heights, not justin theIPLbut in worldcricket. We believe that together, Virat, AB de Villiers and Sarfaraz embody the ‘play bold and fearless’ outlook that is inherent in RCB,” said RCB CEO Amrit Thomas.
The RCB seemed to have burned a hole in their pocket when they spent Rs28 crore on Kohli and De Villiers (Rs11cr), but may have saved up some money for the IPL auction later this month in Bangalore with Sarfaraz’s retention costing them not more than Rs3 crore (the guideline price for an uncapped player). Sarfaraz will actually be paid Rs1.75cr, but the RCB will have Rs 3cr cut from their auction purse because of the rule that the price which is higher (guideline price vis-a-vis actual price) will be determined to cut a team’s auction purse.
Returning to the IPL after a twoyear ban, CSK retainedthecore oftheir team when they got back Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja. Apart from RCB and CSK, the Mumbai Indians (skipper Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah) and the Delhi Daredevils (Rishabh Pant, ChrisMorris and Shreyas Iyer) too retained three players each.
As was speculated, the Kolkata Knight Riders chose not to retain their skipper, veteran batsman Gautam Gambhir, preferring West Indians, mystery spinner SunilNarine and allrounder Andre Russell. The 36-yearoldGambhir has ledKKRtotwo titles, is the fourth highest run-getter in the IPL (he has scored 4132 runs in 147 games), hit the most number of boundaries(484) and 50s (35) along withDavid Warner in the tournament’s history, but was still ignored by the KKR management. It was a bit of a surprise that the Sunrisers Hyderabad chose not to retain India opener Shikhar Dhawan, even as they kept their skipper Warner and India pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar.