Glitz, glamour and big money will be on display at the two-day Indian Premier League (IPL) auction on Saturday-Sunday as 350 cricketers go under the hammer for the fourth season of the money-spinning league.
Missing from the action at ITC Royal Gardenia will be the man branded by many as brash, showy but grudgingly accepted as one who saw where the 'moolah' abounds -- Lalit Modi, the suspended commissioner of IPL.
The IPL-4, beginning in April, just about two weeks after the end of the cricket World Cup jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, is expected to feature 10 teams, with Kochi and Pune being the two new entrants.
For the first time legendary West Indies batsman Brian Lara, who played for the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), will be up for grabs by bidders who include liquor baron Vijay Mallya (Royal Challengers), India's richest man Mukesh Ambani (Mumbai Indians), the 'Bollywood Badshah' Shah Rukh Khan (Kolkata Knight Riders), and the glamorous Preity Zinta (Kings XI Punjab) and Shilpa Shetty (Rajasthan Royals), among others.
The Bangalore auction will be a two-day affair unlike the previous ones in Mumbai where it was all over in a day.
There are 350 cricketers short-listed for auction from the 421 who had expressed interest in playing in the IPL.
Bowling legend Anil Kumble, who is now the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), has withdrawn from the auction citing business and other commitments and he has now been appointed mentor of the Royal Challengers Bangalore of which he was the captain last year.
While the team owners along with the coaches and cricket experts will be ready with a strategy to get the players of their choice, the cricketers themselves will be keenly following the action to know their fate.
The cricketers have been divided into different price bands with the highest reserve price fixed at $400,000 for the likes of Lara, fellow West Indian Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen of England, New Zealander Brendon McCullum, Australian Adam Gilchrist and Indians Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh.
Dravid and Ganguly were placed at a lower price band but they opted to place themselves in the highest bracket.
The upper spending limit for a franchisee is $9 million and those franhisees who have retained players, will have less money at their disposal. Only Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings have retained four players each, the maximum number a team could retain.
By retaining four players, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings are each left with only $4.5m to spend either at the auction or outside from the pool of Ranji Trophy players.
Rajasthan Royals will have $5.9m available to spend while Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore will each have a purse of $7.2m available for the auction. The remaining teams can make use of their full purse of $9m.
A host of stars will be up for grabs at the auction. Eleven batsmen, who have scored centuries in the IPL, will be high on the list of the team owners. It includes the 2010 ICC ODI player of the year AB de Villiers and IPL's quickest century-maker Yusuf Pathan. Among bowlers, IPL's leading wicket-taker, R.P. Singh (38 wickets, IPL 2009) is expected to be a big draw.
Other established IPL performers like Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra are also likely to fetch high price.
The auction will be conducted by Richard Madley, a professional auctioneer from England who supervised all IPL auctions. The proceedings will be telecast live by IPL Indian broadcaster Sony Set Max.
Chennai Super Kings have retained captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay and South African all-rounder Albie Morkel while Mumbai Indians went for batting legend Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga and the West Indian powerhouse Kieron Pollard.
The Delhi Daredevils have chosen to stick with swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag. Exciting Virat Kohli was retained by Royal Challengers Bangalore. Rajasthan Royals, winners of the inaugural season, have reposed faith in their charismatic captain Shane Warne and all-rounder Shane Watson.