Delhi Capitals, the team that came very close to winning the 13th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) but lost against Mumbai Indians last year, had a clear goal in mind before going to the players' auction that took place on February 18.
Colonel Vinod Bisht, CEO, Delhi Capitals, said that the idea was not to target one particular player and go crazy bidding for him. "We knew the areas where we needed players. For example, we needed another Indian fast bowler, so we picked up Umesh Yadav. We required an Indian keeper, so we picked up Vishnu Vinod and we needed overseas all-rounders, that's where Tom Curran came in."
He further said, "Our scouts have also been following domestic tournaments closely because we were keen to acquire players who would be ready to take the field whenever needed. If you see the uncapped domestic players we have picked, they all participated in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Tournament and will feature in the Vijay Hazare as well."
Bisht added that it is also important to keep in mind that come 2022, there will be a mega auction. "So for us, it was crucial to get players who would be ready to play when needed."
While the franchise which is co-owned by the GMR Group and the JSW Group retained most of the players who played a role in the team reaching the final for the first time, the key strategy for them before going into the auction was filling the gaps identified by the coaches and the players for whom they needed backups.
After the auction, Bisht said that "the squad has more depth as we have multiple options to work within every department."
When it comes to best buys, Bisht said that bagging a player of Steve Smith's calibre for Rs 2.2 crore, just Rs 20 lakh above his base price, was a steal.
"We had honestly thought he would go for a lot more but decided to bid for him anyway. And when we realised that there were no other bidders, we were ecstatic. Smith certainly brings in a wealth of experience to the squad."
This is why Delhi Capitals that had a purse of Rs 13.4 crore for the auction, of which they spent Rs 11.25 crore, managed to save Rs 2.15 crore.
Along with Smith, Bisht said that Umesh Yadav, who they got for his base price of Rs 1 crore, is a strong acquisition.
"In Ishant and him (Yadav), we have two quality Indian fast bowlers who boast tremendous experience," he said.
Bisht said that Delhi Capitals is a stronger team now but it wasn't just the coaches who helped in building a strong team. Fans of the franchise had a role to play in this.
Before the auction, Delhi Capitals hosted community polls on social media and also conducted vox populi with fans at different locations in the city to get their opinion on preferred picks for the auction.
The team’s official fan club, the DC Toli had also shared a customised digital filter to enable fans to send in digital vox populi.
And opinions of the fans did reflect in the team’s buys as the popular fan choice was Steve Smith and Umesh Yadav who had emerged as the most wanted batsman and bowler respectively.
"For us, it's Fans First. What is a team without its fans?" asked Bisht.
And this is why Delhi Capitals engaged fans in watch parties on the IPL auction day and plans to host similar activities even during the league.