It would have been understandable if many confounded it as a faux pas. A minor case of mistaken identity perhaps. They obviously must have meant Mandeep Singh and not Manan Vohra you thought. That other, more well-known Punjab batsman, who fits both the ‘young’ and ‘talented’ categories. The one that played in all of Kings XI Punjab’s 16 matches in IPL 6, and is sixth-second amongst Indians-in the franchise’s all-time run-scorers’ list. More so on a day where Mandeep scored a crucial ton for his Ranji Trophy team while Vohra flopped.
If nothing it just seemed odd that Kings XI should be interested in retaining someone who averaged 20.12 with a strike-rate of 137.60 without any stand-out performance. Baffling as it was, KXIP to their credit had pulled off a surprise on retention day. Later they also cleared the air regarding their interest in Vohra, revealing how even the previous management had seen a spark in the talented right-hander.
All other seven franchises had pretty much gone by the book. Mumbai, RCB and Chennai had hung on steadfastly to their twelve-monthly heroes. Delhi clearly weren’t interested in carrying any baggage from their horror show last season. Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders had played it safe by just latching onto the most certified of their match-winners — two each — and saving themselves, or their purses, for auction day where joker cards will come into play.
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Rajasthan Royals might have been the only other team like KXIP to have rewarded two uncapped players in Sanju Samson and Stuart Binny for their stellar contributions from the past season. But the former IPL champions have always shown a penchant to safeguard their home-grown talent.
Much in contrast to the brand of T20 cricket they’ve generally dished out during past IPLs, it was KXIP surprisingly who had refreshingly thought out of the box. They had decided to invest in an evidently unknown quantity hoping that their punt comes off.
The IPL’s decision to include even the uncapped Indian players in the auction had in a way ensured that teams could no longer spread their nets in catchment areas with the hope of roping in undiscovered talent. Singling out potential superstars from their own nest was the only way to go. KXIP seemed to have found their man. The onus will now be on them to back their bold call and invest more than just a fat pay cheque into Vohra. To ensure that by retaining him they’ve handed the youngster a golden opportunity to prove his mettle.
(Bharat is a principal correspondent based in Mumbai)