66 players sold. Rs 91.15 crores spent. Another year, another action-packed auction. 

With the Indian Premier League about to enter a significant 10th season, all eyes were on how the franchises would plan their recruitment — would they go big on Indian talent or will they bank on proven match-winners?

As it turned out, it was a bit of both. 

Here are the biggest takeaways from a hectic day in Bengaluru:

Ishant Sharma shoots himself in the foot

The moment the base prices were announced, eyebrows were collectively raised across the cricket fraternity. Despite being released by Rising Pune Supergiants after an ordinary 2016 season, Ishant listed himself at the highest base-price. Again. It is true that Indian pacers are usually sought after in the auctions. It is also true that Ishant listed himself for the same base-price last year and was picked up by RPS for Rs 3.8 crores.

But he hasn’t played limited overs cricket for India in more than a year. He last played a T20 international in 2013. For someone who is not a regular except in the IPL and in Tests, Ishant pushed his luck perhaps a bit too much. And his own high-evaluation came to bite him. 

Nobody bought him.

And any hopes he was harboring of wearing the blue again, especially in the Champions Trophy in June, might have just gone up in smoke. 

Ben Stokes & Tymal Mills

For INR 14.5 crores, Pune have undoubtedly landed a serial match-winner in Ben Stokes. But for a team that already had Steve Smith, Faf du Plessis, MS Dhoni and Mitchell Marsh, shelling out so much for Stokes seems a tad over the top. And the availability of Stokes for the duration of the IPL is still a question mark. He could be back in England as early as the first week of May for national duties. 

For Tymal Mills, Rs 12 crore is an incredible deal, no doubt. For those unaware, Mills was forced to retire from first class cricket at 22 because of a congenital back condition that prevents him from bowling long spells. He feared that his career was over before it had even begun, but Twenty20 has given him a new lease of life. As we saw against India in the T20 series, Mills has the pace, the variations, the ability to extract bounce — for four overs, he is a massive asset.

Massive day for Associates

Two cricketers from Afghanistan will play in the biggest T20 league in the world. Let that sink in.

All-rounder Mohammad Nabi and 18-year-old spinner Rashid Khan were both snapped up by defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad, sending wild cheers among cricket lovers. Nabi went for his base price for Rs 30 lakh while young Rashid landed a massive contract with his Rs 4 crore price tag. 

These are two cricketers from the war-torn country who have overcome stunning odds to even play cricket, let alone get a bumper contract to play in India. We’d like to stick our neck out and say this is the most significant news to emerge from the auction this year — not just for IPL, but for cricket in general.

Curious case of Imran Tahir

Imran Tahir not being picked up by an IPL team simply doesn’t make sense.

Here’s someone who is the world’s top ranked T20 and ODI bowler. A man who has been a vital part of South Africa’s 12-match unbeaten run in ODIs. A man who has won over fans at every franchise he has played for in the IPL, both with his wicket-taking abilities and stunning celebration skills. At Rs 50 lakhs, he was a bargain like few other in the auction this year. And still he went unsold.

Is it possibly because the South African cricketers will be returning early due to the ODIs against England in May? Well, that did not stop teams from paying gargantuan amounts to Ben Stokes, Tymal Mills and Chris Woakes. 

Curious, indeed.

The feel-good stories: Uncapped Indians

Ishant went unsold. Irfan Pathan and RP Singh had no takers at lower base prices. But two uncapped Indian pacers set the stage alight. It was a day to remember for Tamil Nadu’s T Natarajan and Hyderabad’s Mohammad Siraj.

Natarajan’s base price was Rs 10 lakhs. He went to Kings XI Punjab for 30 times that number. Five years ago, he was playing tennis ball cricket. His father is a coolie. His mother ran a street-side stall. Now he has a Rs 3 crore IPL deal.

Siraj’s story is inspiring as well – his father has been driving an auto-rickshaw for over 30 years. He dreams of buying a small house and asking his father to give up his career slogging for his family. He will put pen to paper on a Rs 2.6 crore deal.

IPL has it’s share of critics — for all the flamboyance and the controversies — but the fact that it has been a source of livelihood for so many young cricketers is often overlooked. On Monday, Siraj and Natarajan stood as shining examples of just that.