Chennai: As many as 101 players, including current and former Australia skippers Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, will get to know their fate in the Indian Premier League (IPL) when nine franchises bid for them on Sunday in the players' auction for the sixth season.
Clarke and Ponting are going to be the cynosure of all eyes in the auction that is only for the sixth edition, after which a fresh auction for the next three seasons will be held. The two Australians, thus, have invited the top base price of $400,000 (approximately Rs. 2.1 crore).
Sunrisers Hyderabad is the newest member of the IPL family, after the Sun Group acquired Deccan Chargers last year. They took some of the Deccan players under the umbrella and will arrive with a purse of $7 million. But it's Rajasthan Royals who carry the most dollars in the wallet - a whopping $7.7 million. But GMR-owned Delhi Daredevils can't pick and choose much since they will be allowed to spend not more than $1.4 million.
While bidding, the franchise owners will also need to keep a tab on what they already have in terms of Indian and overseas players, as there is a cap on squad strength and the number of overseas players. Each team can have a maximum of 33 players in the squad, including not more than 11 overseas players. For example, Kolkata Knight Riders, who already have a total squad of 21 including 9 overseas players, can't purchase more than two overseas players and 12 in total.
There is not much to choose in terms of Indian players in the auction with just six being part of it. Among those, the hottest pick is expected to be allrounder Abhishek Nayar, followed by fast bowler RP Singh. Nayar has been in terrific form in the just-concluded Ranji Trophy, playing a crucial role in helping Mumbai lift the trophy for a record 40th time. A close friend of India and Chennai Super Kings' captain MS Dhoni, Singh may attract the attention of CSK, who look short of a new-ball bowler. Both Nayar and RP Singh have a base price of $100,000.
Players from Pakistan are as expected not part of the auction, especially after relations between the two countries became tense following a bloody exchange at the Line of Control (LoC). Just two players from England (Ravi Bopara and Matt Prior) are part of the auction pool, while the Ireland allrounder Kevin O'Brien is the only player from the Associate ICC nations.
But without any doubt, Clarke and Ponting remain the talk of the town. Clarke may have retired from the Twenty20 format but the Australian captain was part of Pune Warriors India last year. However, since he has been released by Pune, the Aussie is expected to top the priority list of many franchises, especially due to his leadership skills. Ponting, on the other hand, has retired from all international cricket after a dip in form. He played for Kolkata Knight Riders in the inaugural edition in 2008 but was laid off in 2010.
According to PTI sources, Mumbai Indians are expected to go after Clarke, while Ponting may invite Sunrisers' interest as a mentor-cum-captain. "Since this is a one-season deal, there is no harm in getting Ricky Ponting, who is a thorough professional. Since Kumar Sangakkara hasn't done too well as captain [of now-defunct Deccan Chargers] and Cameron White is not an automatic choice either, Ponting can be their go-to man," an official closely associated with the auction told PTI.
Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders, who come in with the second lightest purse of $2.18 million, won't be eating too much into the auction, especially after having a settled unit for the first time in five years. So they won't be looking very keenly at the pool of players dominated by the lesser-known players from Australia and South Africa.