As the New Year begins, cricket fans around the world prepare for another exciting, action-packed year. With all the hype surrounding the India versus England ODI series; the South Africa versus Sri Lanka Test Series; and the Australia versus Pakistan series, one important announcement has slipped under the radar of most cricket fans: the announcement made by various IPL Franchises.
Earlier in December, the BCCI released a list of players retained by IPL teams and, more importantly, a list of players let go. There were some surprising inclusions on the second list. Today, we take a look at the 10 most surprising list of players that were released. Before we begin though, I’d like the readers to note some big names who were released, but we won’t be discussing in detail.
Honourable mentions: Two players who did fairly well last year were Pravin Tambe and Brad Hogg, but age isn’t on their side, and it makes their release less surprising. Pawan Negi, who was last year’s most expensive Indian player, has also been released, but the release can be justified by his dismal performances in IPL 9. A lot of all-rounders were released, including Albie Morkel, Thisara Perera, Irfan Pathan and Saurabh Tiwary. While they are all big names, they are players who are past their peak, and have contributed little to their respective teams.
1. Varun Aaron
One of the few players released by the Royal Challengers Bangalore is Varun Aaron. While Aaron isn’t the best Indian bowler present in the IPL, he was a regular in the starting XI for RCB last year, when they made the finals. His performance was mediocre picking up only 2 wickets in the entire season, but he was one of RCB’s only Indian fast bowlers, which makes his release surprising. His best year in the IPL was 2014, when he picked up 16 wickets in 10 games for RCB.
2. Morne Morkel
About 5 years ago, Morne Morkel was one of the most feared fast bowlers in the IPL. He won the Purple Cap in 2012, and was an integral part of the Kolkata Knight Riders Squad that won the 2014 edition of the IPL. While he has been a shadow of his former self ever since, he is still quite a respected name in cricket today. Therefore, it’d seem surprising that KKR let him go even though they lack a high quality fast bowler this season (they have released Shaun Tait as well), though his injury may have something to do with it. Morkel picked up 10 wickets in his 10 games last season, at an average of 29.7 runs a wicket.
3. Mitchell Johnson
Another overseas fast bowler who is past his peak is Mitchell Johnson. While Johnson missed quite a few games last season due to fitness issues, it is still surprising that he has been dropped from the Kings XI Punjab squad as he has shown multiple times that he belongs in the IPL. Johnson can be fairly handy with the bat as well, and has the ability to slog a few runs in the final overs of a game. He was dropped from the Mumbai Indians squad before the 2014 auction, having picked up 24 wickets the previous season. He joined KXIP in 2014, getting 17 wickets from his 14 games. It is after that that his form declined. He had to undergo surgery due to a shoulder injury, and has been inconsistent ever since. There are rumours that his release is due to a contract dispute with the team. Johnson played only 3 games last season, picking up 2 wickets.
4. Ishant Sharma
One of the most successful Indian fast bowlers to be released is Ishant Sharma. Ishant has been an integral part of the Indian bowling unit, and while he is often a little expensive, he is a seasoned veteran, and has the experience required to lead a bowling attack; which is why it is quite surprising that the Rising Pune Supergiants chose to release him this year. While he hasn’t played too many games in the IPL since 2014, he has done fairly well whenever he has played. Indian pacers are a valuable commodity in the IPL, and it is highly likely that he will find a buyer in the 2017 auction.
5. Murugan Ashwin
A player who was a find in the 2016 Edition of the IPL was Murugan Ashwin. While he had played a few first class matches, and was a regular net bowler for the Chennai Super Kings, Ashwin’s only real claim to fame was that he picked up 3 wickets against the KXIP in Match 10. He was quite impressive in the initial part of the season for the Rising Pune Supergiants, but became slightly less economical towards the end of the season, which is typical of leg spinners, as they tend to go for more runs to off spinners. It was surprising that he was released; as he is the type of bowler MS Dhoni enjoys using. It is quite likely that RPS will look to buy him back in the auction, for a lower price.
6. Trent Boult
The third out of 4 overseas pacers on this list is Trent Boult. Boult was impressive for New Zealand in the World Cup in 2015, and did fairly well in 2015’s IPL as well, picking up 9 wickets in 7 matches. He missed a large part of 2016’s IPL due to injury, and played only one game. While the Sunrisers Hyderabad have a decent replacement for Boult in Mustafizur Rahman, it is still quite surprising that a bowler of the calibre of Boult would not even be considered as a back-up option should Mustafizur get injured.
7. Corey Anderson
The Mumbai Indians have always prided themselves on their strong (if inconsistent) middle order through the years, whether it was Rayudu-Tiwary in the early seasons, Duminy-Bravo around 2010, or Karthik-Pollard-Franklin in 2013. Which is why it is surprising that they’d let go of one of their most consistent middle order batsman in Corey Anderson. While Corey didn’t play a single game in last year’s edition of the IPL, it was due to fitness issues. He still isn’t at a 100%, and is still trying to earn his place back in the New Zealand squad, but he certainly will be fit by the start of the IPL season. Thus, it is surprising that MI have let go of him, even though he was one of the reasons they made the 2014 playoffs. He has scored 379 runs in his 16 matches in the IPL so far, at a strike rate of 136.33.
8. Dale Steyn
The fourth and final overseas fast bowler on this list is Dale Steyn. Steyn is one of the fastest and fiercest bowlers to have ever played the game. Much like Corey Anderson, he missed a lot of the last season due to fitness issues, and is supposedly past his peak. While he isn’t as lethal as he once was, Steyn is one of the most surprising players to be released this year, since every batsman knows what the ‘Steyn Gun’ is capable of. On his day, he can demolish the strongest of batting orders, and he has proven it multiple times. He has been playing in the IPL for the past 8 years, having picked up 92 wickets in his 90 matches. It is quite likely that he will be drafted for a final season in the IPL, before going into retirement come 2018.
9. Imran Tahir
One of the most surprising players to be released was Imran Tahir, the South African spinner. While releasing fast bowlers like Boult and Morkel is understandable, releasing a spinner who is as good as Tahir is extremely unjustifiable. It is a well documented fact that good spinners are crucial for IPL teams, since most of the games are played on turning pitches. Tahir played only 5 games for the Delhi Daredevils last season, mainly due to the overseas player limit, but he was Delhi’s joint highest wicket taker in the 2015 season, picking up 15 wickets in 10 games. Tahir is still a regular part of the South African National team, and should be one of the first names to find a buyer in this year’s auction.
10. Kevin Pietersen
While the release of all of the above players has caused surprise, the decisions to release them are somewhat justifiable. Either the player was underperforming, or has been dropped because there is a player capable of fulfilling a similar role better in the squad. Although, one player who has been released even though he is inform, is Kevin Pietersen. ‘KP’ is one of the most controversial players to have played the game, and is currently fighting to earn his place back in the England team. While he hasn’t played international cricket in a long time, we all know what he is capable of, and he has proven that time and again in various domestic leagues. He scored 73 runs in the 4 matches that he played last season, before leaving the squad due to injury. While there are questions regarding his fitness, it is pretty certain that KP will get picked in the 2017 auction, as there is no one who describes the term ‘pinch-hitter’ as well as he does.
Those are the 10 most surprising releases before the 2017 auction. Do you feel that we missed any player? If so, leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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