With a total purse string of $16.6 million - much lower than last year's $62.8 million - for the nine franchisees and a choice of 144 players (with only seven Indians) to choose from, the Indian Premier League 5 (IPL) auction to be held on Saturday in Bangalore is expected to be a low-key affair, with only a few star players worth chasing for and no big firework deals.
The hottest players in the reckoning include New Zealand's Brendon McCullum with a base price of $4,00,000, Sri Lankan ace Mahela Jayawardene with a base price of $3,00,000 and maverick spinner Muttiah Muralitharan with a base price of $3,00,000. Last year, these players were part of the Kochi Tuskers, whose franchise licence had been cancelled by the board.
One could also pick up some decent bowlers like Australian pace bowler Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and all-rounder Brad Hodge for $2,00,000 each.
Among the Indians, Ravindra Jadeja ($1,00,000) is a hot favourite and is expected to command a high price, but it is doubtful whether R P Singh ($2,00,000), pace bowler S Sreesanth ($4,00,000) and V V S Laxman ($4,00,000) - considering his indifferent performance Down Under - will be attractive for franchisees.
Also, there are former players of Kochi Tuskers. Parthiv Patel ($2,00,000) may be taken as another wicketkeeper.
In the 2011 auctions, 10 teams had spent $62.8 million collectively to buy a total of 82 foreign and 45 Indian players. "Teams will focus on their strategic requirements, not on star quality alone," Amrit Mathur, CEO GMR Sports, which owns Delhi Daredevils said.
If a team already has a number of batsmen, it will likely go for bowlers.
The idea is to provide an allround balance to the squadDelhi Daredevils, after their ghastly performance last year, had already roped in Kevin Pieterson from Deccan Chargers at around $2 million to strengthen the team lead by Virendra Sehwag, who has been a major failure in the ongoing series in Australia.
Many say that franchisees would go for young T-20 specialists rather than established names. "Each team is looking for not just performers but also players who will create excitement in the team. The old generation of players could remain unsold as young T-20 specialists like Brein brothers from Ireland and Tarim Iqbal from Bangladesh could be a better buy for teams," said Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer, KWAN Entertainment and Marketing Solutions.
Some franchisees say they are looking closely at some players of Pakistani origin whoplay in other countries and clubs. "We will look at all rounder Azhar Mahmood and Tahir Zaman," says the franchisee. Team insiders say most of the players will remain unsold as the total requirement is not more than 20 to 25 players put together among the franchisees. This is because most of them have already done the big deals before the auction. So, for instance, Bangalore has retained Chris Gayle of West Indies who many would have loved to have, and Pune Warriors have had to retain Sourav Ganguly. Executives in the team say that its is unlikely that the team captain, Yuvraj Singh, will be fit to play in the IPL.
Mumbai Indians was also active in the trading window prior to the auction, adding Dinesh Kartik and Pragyan Ojha to the squad and offering R Satish to Kings XI Punjab.
The fifth edition of IPL will be begin on April 4.