Around the time Glenn Maxwell became the latest entrant in the exclusive IPL millionaire’s club last year, Craig Simmons was busy fixing power lines as an apprentice lineworker for Western Power in Perth. His cricket was limited to a few stray club games and at 30, with burly and unfit commonly used to describe him, a return to domestic cricket looked increasingly bleak.
Ben Dunk and Cameron Gannon, meanwhile, too were contemplating their respective cricketing futures. Having been dumped by Queensland, selling bananas at his family farm in Innisfail was emerging as an imminent career option for Dunk. Gannon on the other hand had been suspended from bowling for a suspect action the previous season and left to wonder whether he would ever bowl in a competitive match again.
Back then, the IPL was an El Dorado so distant that the three Australians couldn’t have even imagined being a part of it. Incredibly in a turnaround of T20 proportions, the motley trio could well be in line for their own Cindrella moment when the IPL franchises head for the 2014 auction over the next two days in Bangalore.
Corey Anderson, Kevin Pietersen, Aaron Finch and the likes will be expected to be the marquee names setting off bidding wars among the eight teams vying for their services.
But it is the electrician, the son of a banana farmer and a lanky pacer enjoying his second lease of life, all three with a base price of Rs 30,00,000, who will go into the auction with the potential of being the surprise picks this time around. And for good reason.
While opener Dunk was named the player of the tournament in the recently concluded Big Bash League (BBL), Simmons was the real batting sensation scoring two centuries, including one off just 39 balls. In all, Dunk totalled 395 runs for finalists Hobart Hurricanes at 43.88 with a strike-rate of 145.75. Simmons’ 278 runs for Perth Scorchers came at a even more rapid rate of 165.47 with his 112 in the semifinal knocking out favourites Melbourne Stars.
Though most of their runs did come against the fast bowlers on bouncy wickets in Australia, both left-handers could well break into any of the lower-ranked franchises, who have abstained from major retentions.
Gannon on the other hand should be in greater demand. Tall Australian pacers have always attracted attention at IPL auctions. Last year, the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson were picked up for plenty—the latter in fact for seven times his base price. And at 200 cm, 25-year-old Gannon is arguably the tallest pacer from Down Under to have entered the IPL auction ever.
Richardson incidentally was bought by the now defunct Pune Warriors for a whopping $700,000 on the back of having taken 10 wickets at 18 apiece in the second season of the BBL. With 18 wickets at an average of 11.94 and the ability to bowl accurate yorkers, the gangly Gannon will be hoping to do a Maxwell or at least a Daniel Christian from the 2011 auction, especially considering his lowly base price as an uncapped player.
The likes of Gurinder Sandhu and Jason Behrendoff, who was the most economical among the pacers, too could be in line for maiden IPL contracts. Dunk, Gannon and Simmons will not be the only Australians to have benefited from the scheduling of the BBL, which concluded less than a week before the auction. The same could be said of the South Africans who topped the charts during the RamSlam T20 tournament.
Left-armer Beuran Hendricks in particular — who bowls at 140kph and produces sharp movement off the wicket. The young pacer finished with 28 wickets at 10.28 apiece doubled with an economy of 7.08 and was Cape Cobras’ hit-man throughout the tournament.
Last year, Chris Morris saw his stocks soar into the sky with Chennai Super Kings eventually nabbing him for $750,000 from a base price of just $20,000. “I have never seen in my life this much money,” the Lions fast bowler had said following his phoenix-like ascent from obscurity.
Among the South African batsmen, bungee-jump enthusiast Cameron Delport is touted to be another unexpected buy, having come up with crucial cameos for the Dolphins during their ride to the final. And there will be many more like him with their fingers crossed, hoping and praying to be the next Morris or the Maxwell across the southern hemisphere.
While Pietersen will be the only English name to stand out, Alex Hales is the No.1 ranked international T20 batsman at the moment and he also did a star-turn during the BBL recently. But if anything it will be his Rs 2,00,00,000 base price that could prove to be a major obstacle.
As far as Simmons is concerned, life has already returned to normal with him having rejoined work at Western Power. He might not have to bother about fixing electric lines for too long though if he does go the Maxwell way.