The two-bouncer per over rule in the Indian Premier League will certainly make fast bowlers more effective this season. Previously, the batters could relax after facing a bouncer early in the over knowing that there would be no more short balls coming their way in the over. Now, the bowlers will have one more card up their sleeves and it may not seem like much but it does change the game.

Australian cricketers Mitchell Starc (L) and team captain Pat Cummins pose with the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 Trophy (AFP)

The rule may have directly or indirectly influenced the franchisees at the auction table on Tuesday as fast bowlers proved to be the most precious commodity at the event. It was clear that most of the teams were focused on bolstering their pace attack. Some, like the Royal Challengers Bangalore, looked for a complete revamp of their attack while others wanted to pick the best in the market and strengthen their line-up.

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A study of the successful teams and you can see the reasons for the teams looking to build their pace arsenal. For last year’s runners-up Gujarat Titans, Mohammed Shami picked 28 wickets in 17 games while Mohit Sharma claimed 27 in 14. For winners, Chennai Super Kings, Tushar Deshpande claimed 19 wickets in 16 games and Matheesha Pathirana had 19 wickets in 12 games.

Five-time champions, Mumbai Indians have built their title-winning spree on excellent fast bowling performances. When you look at their history what stands out is how their success has been built around fast bowling exploits of Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult.

Then, in the 2022 IPL season, 16 among the top 20 wicket-takers were pace bowlers.

BATTERS, SPINNERS LOSE OUT

During auctions, coming up in the first set is generally a big advantage as the franchises go big at the start. On Tuesday, it wasn’t the case. The Set 1 — specialist batters — was largely ignored. The franchises were clearly saving the money for more pressing needs.

Rilee Rossouw attracted no bids – that he later went for 8 crore to Punjab Kings only shows that he was in the plans but early on, the teams wanted to keep their purse for their pace acquisitions. No one jumped in to bid when Travis Head’s name came up either before SRH raised the paddle, and Chennai Super Kings quit early for SRH to get him at a bargain price of 6.80 crore. Delhi Capitals didn’t face much competition for getting Harry Brook at 4 crore. Karun Nair, Steve Smith and Manish Pandey also didn’t get bids in Set 1.

The spinners set which followed after the all-rounders went totally unsold. Only 16 players sold in the auction were listed as allrounders and bowlers with spin-bowling roles. Among those 16, 10 were picked at their base price of 20 lakh.

As per the figures put out by cricket website, Espncricinfo, about two-thirds of the total spend ( 154.5cr) was on pace bowlers. If one includes pace bowling all-rounders, 36 of the 72 players sold bowl pace.

Five of most expensive players were pace bowlers — Mitchel Starc ( 24.75cr), Pat Cummins ( 20.50cr), Harshal Patel ( 11.75cr), Alzzari Joseph ( 11.5cr) and Spencer Johnson ( 10cr). Daryl Mitchell, who fetched the third highest bid of the auction at 14cr is a pace-bowling all-rounder which means all the players who went for 10 crore-plus bids were either pace bowlers or pace-bowling allrounders.

Pacers overall were in great demand. Shiva Mavi was taken for 6.40 crore by Lucknow Super Giants, Umesh Yadav fetched 5.80 crore from Gujarat Titans and Shardul Thakur was bought by CSK for 4 crore.

The bidding war between Kolkata Knight Riders and Gujarat Titans for Starc was simply mind-blowing. After failing to get the Australian pacer, Gujarat Titans splurged 10 crore on left-arm pacer Spencer Johnson, they paid 5.80cr on veteran pacer Umesh Yadav and also got Kartik Tyagi.

Titans had the biggest purse and were expected to bid hard for Travis Head, but coach Ashish Nehra said it was not the plan. “Not particularly Starc (that we wanted to keep the purse), (just that) Travis is an opener and we have openers. You have to see what the team’s requirement is, not which player is in form,” said Nehra.

Nehra said they were happy to get the left-arm pace option of Spencer Johnson after not getting Starc. “Every team keeps their options, if you don’t get your first choice (Starc), then you go for another player. We wanted a fast bowler and good luck that we got Spencer,” said Nehra.

While Spencer is their back-up option for Starc, there was some serious thought behind the other buys GT made. With Umesh Yadav there’s a risk of leaking runs but he is a different bowler on lively pitches. When GT decide to play on the red soil pitches for the home matches at Motera, Yadav will come into the fray. He is especially good with the new ball.

Despite their limited purse, Mumbai Indians also spend big on getting pacers, paying R5 core for South Africa’s Gerald Coetzee and 4.80 on Nuwan Thushara and 4.60 for Dilshan Madushanka.

The Wankhede Stadium pitch offers good bounce for the pace bowlers. It means their pace attack of Jasprit Bumrah, Coetzee, Hardik Pandya and Madushanka will be again the one to watch out for.

After all these seasons, RCB haven’t been able to crack the IPL. They decided to revamp their pace attack, releasing their pace bowlers except Mohammed Siraj. Hence they spent 20 crore in acquiring four pace bowling options — Alzarri Joseph, Yash Dayal, Lockie Ferguson and Tom Curran.

Explaining the spend of 11.75 cr on Alzarri, RCB’s Director of Cricket Mo Bobat said: “He was in our top three targets from an overseas pace bowling perspective. He has pace, bowls from a high release point which gives him bounce, he’s a recognised death bowler and our captain is a fan of Alzarri.”

Punjab Kings urgently needed a quality Indian pacer and they managed to land Harshal Patel. Of the two overseas slots left they spent one on getting the experienced England pacer Chris Waoakes.

Sanjay Bangar, who is head of PBKS’ cricket development, said: “Having an Indian seamer is of immense value. Harshal bowls through the middle and death overs. It gives us an option of using Harshal as an Impact Player too. That was the thinking behind acquiring both Woakes and Harshal. Woakes covers two positions for us – Curran and Rabada.”

Kolkata Knight Riders were also in immediate need of a couple of good pace bowlers and Australia’s Mitchell Starc was naturally No 1 choice. They wanted him. they got him and now, they need to make it count.