During the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction that took place on February 18, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) raised eyebrows when the franchise bought players like Cheteshwar Pujara and Krishnappa Gowtham.
Particularly Gowtham. CSK bought him for Rs 9.25 crore, and many felt that was expensive.
As for Pujara, the cricketer last played the 2014 IPL and for many seasons remained unsold, casting a shadow of doubt on CSK's decision. Pujara was bought at his base price of Rs 50 lakh.
When it comes to Gowtham though, KS Viswanathan, CSK CEO, considers him one of the best additions to the squad along with Moeen Ali.
"Considering the balance of the side, we wanted off-spin bowling all-rounders, both an Indian and a foreigner. That was primarily on our mind and it worked out as we got Moeen Ali and Krishnappa Gowtham. And with the balance money we had, we picked up a few Indian youngsters," he said.
While the franchise wanted Australian cricketer, Glenn Maxwell, CSK was unable to win that bidding round and Maxwell was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for Rs 14 crore.
CSK wanted Maxwell as the team needed an off-spinner after Harbhajan Singh was released by the franchise.
But Chennai got another chance to fill that position when Moeen Ali's name came up for bidding. With a base price of Rs two crore, Ali was sold to CSK for Rs seven crore.
It is precisely why Viswanathan considers him as one of the best buys during the auction. "The best buys were the two off-spin bowling all-rounders, Moeen and Gowtham. Our choice of a foreign off-spin bowling all-rounder was between Moeen and Glenn Maxwell. Maxwell went beyond our budget, but we are happy to have got Moeen, who is as good in Indian conditions," he said.
While he is not betting big on anyone, Viswanathan is hoping that "Moeen and Gowtham, if and when they get the opportunity, will definitely come good under the captaincy of MS Dhoni."
Interestingly, even before the auction on February 18, CSK had added a new player in their squad, Robin Uthappa, who they bought from Rajasthan Royals for Rs three crore. CSK got him at the same price.
"We realized there might not be many experienced Indian players available at the auction. So, when we had the opportunity to trade, we went for Robin, who is an experienced top-order batsman with a lot of IPL experience. He’s been among the runs in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 competition and the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day competition, which augurs well for us."
For Chennai, the last season of IPL was not an eventful one as the team could not make it to the playoffs for the first time. But the CSK CEO is confident about the upcoming season of IPL.
"Our team is looking extremely well-balanced. We lacked balance last season as Harbhajan was unavailable. This time around Suresh Raina is accessible and now we have got two off-spin bowling all-rounders. We are confident of doing well," he said.
While many still have concerns whether CSK has the perfect team, Viswanathan said that they have the right mix of experience and youth, which is why he is "hoping this will be a good year for us."