At the end of IPL’s retention deadline on Sunday evening, Hardik Pandya was still a Gujarat Titan. But BCCI officials confirmed that an all-cash deal ( 15 crore) has been worked out for the India all-rounder’s ‘home coming’ to Mumbai Indians. An official announcement is expected on Monday. To allow this trade to go through, it was learnt, MI have initiated another cash trade to let go of Australian all-rounder Cameron Green ( 17.5 crore) to Royal Challengers Bangalore.

More than one IPL franchise, other than the two at play, said that they had heard that relations were not all that smooth between Pandya and Gujarat Titans, even before this year’s campaign began(PTI)

Franchises are within their rights to trade until December 12, a week before the auction (December 19). That’s as far as technicalities go. Given the stakes involved with India’s long-term T20 captain-in-waiting moving to a franchise led by India’s Test captain and one who’s yet to be ruled out of the national T20 mix; it has generated shock and awe in the larger cricketing ecosystem.

But more than one IPL franchise, other than the two at play, said that they had heard that relations were not all that smooth between Pandya and Gujarat Titans, even before this year’s campaign began. Pandya, it was learnt, had initiated discussions with GT about his desire to move to MI, where he first made a mark to be selected for the national side.

Pandya was released by MI before the mega auction of 2022 when he wasn’t at his best form and fitness. A Gujarati speaking Baroda player, Pandya’s leadership ambitions were given wings by the Ahmedabad franchise, then new to the IPL fold. He repaid their faith by leading them to the title in 2022. With another stellar performance, their finishing runners-up in 2023, few expected Pandya and Gujarat to part ways.

With Pandya’s exit confirmed, GT are expected to elevate Shubman Gill as captain. Gill, an India all-format international, had a remarkable IPL this year amassing 890 runs.

Archer, Stokes released

Other headlines also came from MI, whose much awaited Project Jofra Archer never took off. Archer was one among the 11 players released by MI. The England fast bowler was signed up in the 2022 IPL auction for 8 crore as a future investment, despite being injured at the time. His much anticipated joining of forces with Jasprit Bumrah never materialised with the India pace ace dealing with his troubled back. Now that Bumrah is fit and firing, Archer is still undergoing rehab. He could only feature in five matches for MI.

Chennai Super Kings have also lost patience with Ben Stokes, who is due to undergo knee surgery soon and ruled himself out of this year’s IPL to stay fresh for the Ashes. CSK’s 16.25 crore signing could feature in only two matches this year. The IPL champions made a prudent call to bolster their auction purse by releasing England’s star all-rounder.

KKR press reset button

Gautam Gambir’s return to Kolkata Knight Riders as a mentor led to a clear shift in strategy with a whole list of fast bowlers from Shardul Thakur, Lockie Ferguson, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, David Wiese and Kulwant Khejroliya released. With Vaibhav Arora the only remaining pacer in their ranks, they are expected to go for fast bowlers. This may also be indicative of KKR looking to dish out spin-friendly pitches at Eden Gardens for home matches. Their oldest recruits, Caribbean players Andre Russel and Sunil Narine, have been retained.

Power-hitters too costly

Two explosive batters, England’s Harry Brook from Sunrisers Hyderabad and Shah Rukh Khan from Punjab Kings, will return to the auction pool after their franchises perhaps found their current value — 13.25 and 9 crore respectively — too high for their liking. Tom Moody, former SRH head coach and Anil Kumble, former head coach at PBKS, believed the teams may be left to rue the decisions as quality power-hitters are in short supply.

Lucknow Super Giants overhauled their support staff with Justin Langer coming in and Gambhir leaving. They have released as many as eight players, not all of them sure to start in the playing 11. They may be seen going for overseas all-rounders at the auction. Before the retention deadline, they drafted left-handed opener Devdutt Padikkal from Rajasthan Royals. KL Rahul continues to be in charge and will have a point to prove with the clamour for India berths for next year’s T20 World Cup going up.

Without accounting for Pandya and Green’s trade, RCB have the biggest purse available ( 40.75 crore). Even SRH ( 34 crore), KKR ( 32.7 crore) and CSK ( 31.4 crore) are well placed to make some big moves in the mini auction to be held in Dubai on December 19. A total of 77 player slots are vacant with 30 of them being for overseas players.