It’s that time of the year again when cricketers end up being commodities. The Indian Premier League (IPL) Player Auction – being held overseas for the first time – will see 333 hopeful cricketers attracting a bid for a maximum of 77 slots once the game of hammer and pedals begins at the Coca Cola Arena here on Wednesday.
For the cricket fans, though, more than the first about the venue, the moot question is whether the Rs. 20-crore mark will be breached for the first time at an IPL auction.
With the 2024 Player Auction being the last before next year’s periodic full squad revamp, the franchises don’t really have to think long-term.
Besides, splurging big may also result in a potential marquee player being under the wings and presenting franchises with an option to retain him ahead of next year’s auction.
Starc, Cummins in focus
Naturally, the fans will be hoping to see a tussle between the tables for big-ticket acquisitions. Australia’s ODI World Cup stars, especially left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc, opening batter Travis Head, and captain Pat Cummins, will hope to rake in big bucks.
Similarly, New Zealand’s promising allrounder Rachin Ravindra and India’s Shardul Thakur – the only member of the World Cup squad to be in the auction – will also attract interest from the franchises.
How the franchises stand
The fact that four franchises—Chennai Super Kings (Rs. 31.40 crore), Gujarat Titans (Rs. 38.15 crore), Kolkata Knight Riders (Rs. 32.70 crore) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (Rs. 34 crore) – have a purse in excess of Rs. 30 crore will mean a group of players will have a big payday.
Whether that results in the record bid of Rs. 18.50 crore – by SRH for England’s Sam Curran last year – being overhauled or not remains to be seen.
The Knight Riders – with the return of Gautam Gambhir, its IPL-winning captain, as the mentor – will be the busiest. The two-time champion outfit has a maximum of 12 slots to fill, having nearly emptied its pace bowling unit ahead of the auction.
KKR, Delhi Capitals (Rs. 28.95 crore) and Mumbai Indians (Rs. 17.75 crore) each have a maximum of four overseas slots to fill. While the Knight Riders and the Capitals may well go all out for someone like Starc or Head, Mumbai Indians will have to target economical buys considering their limited purse.
For the three southern outfits, CSK and SRH have a maximum of six slots to fill. The Royal Challengers Bangalore (Rs. 23.25 crore) will have to eye a big-ticket overseas signing, with the fourth overseas players’ slot in the XI still open.
Just like the last 10 auctions, uncapped players will also be in demand. Big-hitting batters Shahrukh Khan (Tamil Nadu), Shubham Dubey (Vidarbha) and Sameer Rizvi (Uttar Pradesh) are likely to see a bidding war over their acquisition, Maharashtra’s Under-19 star Arshin Kulkarni, a top-order batter who bowls impressive medium-pace, could well fetch a sum much higher than his base price of Rs. 20 lakh.