While former champions Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders, too, are more or less sorted, the situation is different for underachievers like Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore. They have released a lot of players after they failed to match expectations last year and for them, it’s again a time to rebuild. But with only 292 players in the fray and England’s Dawid Malan one of the few new sought-after names, one may feel that the drama in the build-up isn’t quite there.
There are a few names though who have fetched big money before, but have been released by their franchises. Australia’s Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell, Bangladesh’s Shakib al Hassan and England’s Moeen Ali are in that list and they can expect some interest around them. Malan, a big-hitter with some recent T20 reputation, comes in with high hopes and it will be interesting to see if Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore, with a booty of Rs 35.40 crore, will look to fill Aaron Finch’s spot with him. But if you are looking at brand value and proven quality, then Smith could be a better fit for them and it would be quite a sight if the Aussie, Kohli and AB de Villiers are in the top four of the same team.
RCB, in fact, have 10 more slots to fill and Maxwell, despite his poor performances of late, can well be one of their targets. The more interested party in the Maxwell case, though, is CSK, who want a spin-bowling allrounder to bolster their lineup. The fact that the team is not overdependent on any player could free up Maxwell to express himself more in a team like CSK. Moeen, who has the ability to clear the fence at ease in addition to bowling a bit of off-spin, could also be in the wish-list along with K Gowtham, who has been released by KXIP.
Defending champions MI are so compact on all fronts that they can really go into this auction in a relaxed mode. A pace bowler or two won’t be bad because they have released James Pattinson and Nathan Coulter-Nile, but they don’t really need to be too worried. As is often the case in IPL auctions, a few domestic names will be fetching big bucks. Strong performances at the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s held last month wouldn’t go unnoticed. Franchises have Kerala batsman Mohammed Azharuddeen and Tamil Nadu’s M Shahrukh Khan on their wish lists. Azharuddeen lit up the Mushtaq Ali T20s with a 37-ball hundred against Mumbai, while Shahrukh played a few cameos during crunch situations. Baroda’s batsman Vishnu Solanki and left-arm pacer Lukman Meriwala too came up with strong shows in the tournament.
There’s another name – Arjun Tendulkar – who will attract a few eyeballs. The young Mumbai allrounder and the son of Sachin Tendulkar, with a base price of Rs 20 lakh, made the auction list after a debut for Mumbai against Puducherry in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. That, incidentally, is the only game he has played for Mumbai. If prices for these players shoot up, teams like Rajasthan Royals or KIngs XI Punjab, who have bigger purses, will be better placed to get them.
“Teams like MI, KKR and CSK don’t have the purse to fight a bidding war for these guys. And the way things are, these teams can be a little cagey about spending big on untested players this year,” an IPL insider said.
There are a few seniors like Harbhajan Singh, Umesh Yadav, Piyush Chawla and Kedar Jadhav who have been released by their respective franchises and hope that someone shows interest. “Players like Bhajji and Kedar have base prices of Rs 2 cr which is on the higher side. Let’s see if there are any takers,” the insider said.