This Indian Premiere League auction has a sense of déjà vu to it as the season welcomes two new entries – Pune and Rajkot, much like 2011 when the Pune Warriors and Kochi Tuskers Kerala debuted. However, the similarity ends right there as bigger teams had then not retained a single player, leveling the playing field.
This time though, numbers will be checked repeatedly before paddles are raised as the auction in Bengaluru will see new franchises build from a team of five while the older franchises already have 13 players.
A total of 351 players are set to go under the hammer, including 230 Indian players and 121 from overseas. IPL franchises can have a maximum of 27 players, including nine overseas recruits. And if all franchises look to fill their quota that would mean 116 players --- including up to 36 overseas players --- would be bought at this auction.
The budget factor
The fight might not be as much for overseas recruits as the Indian players purely because of the arithmetic involved. Delhi Daredevils have offloaded the maximum players and have 13 left. But that also includes five foreigners. Since each team can’t field more than four foreigners in a match, franchises might not want to fill their quota of nine players and focus more on buying quality Indian recruits. This can make the team building process of Pune and Rajkot (both have budgets of Rs 27 crore for the auction) rather difficult since they have less money than Delhi (Rs 37.15 crore) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (Rs 30.15 crore) and more players to buy.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that Mumbai Indians and KKR --- two sides that look most well settled with 19 and 15 players retained respectively --- won’t be a threat to the aspirations of the new franchises but they could probably either pick few players now or wait for the second trading window to open after the auction.
Plenty of foreign picks
While eight players --- Yuvraj Singh, Ishant Sharma, Kevin Pietersen, Shane Watson, Dale Steyn, Aaron Finch, Martin Guptill and Dwayne Smith --- are the designated marquee players there are 11 more foreigners within the Rs 1-2 crore bracket. So there are plenty of foreigners to choose from for Pune and Rajkot who had bought two and three foreigners respectively in the December 15 draft.
But both teams are set to go into the auction with different strategies. With MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, Steve Smith and Faf du Plessis in their squad, Pune would now look to focus on buying some quality bowlers who can assist R Ashwin. Rajkot, on the other hand, have possibly the best all-rounder trio in Ravindra Jadeja Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner so they have to strike a balance between buying both bowlers and batsmen. The problem that both franchises share is that almost every consistent Indian player has been retained by the other six franchises. Which means either they have to buy a fresh talent or bet on an old hand.
Yuvraj set for windfall
Which is exactly why Yuvraj could hit pay dirt yet again this auction. Delhi Daredevils broke bank to buy him for R 16 crore last year but Yuvraj couldn’t deliver much, forcing the franchise to release him. Yuvraj was strong in the domestic arena this season but needed a cameo in the India colours to pitchfork him into the spotlight again. That came in the third T20 against Australia in Sydney. Asish Nehra, similarly, could be a highly sought after player since he has proved his worth in the IPL. Among the overseas players, Shane Watson, Aaron Finch and to some extent George Bailey could see some heavy bidding due to their successful stints against India in the recent series in Australia. Equally bankable could be some of the U-19 players who are currently playing the World Cup in Bangladesh, namely Rishabh Pant, Mahipal Lomror, Avesh Khan, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Batham and Mayank Dagar.