Stokes set to be the cynosure

The big all-rounder will be the main attraction along with his England mates

Stokes set to be the cynosure

Two big developments unfolded on Sunday, the eve of the Indian Premier League Player Auction to be held here on Monday.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni was removed as the captain of the Rising Pune Supergiants, paving the way for the elevation of Steven Smith as the new skipper. Later in the day arrived the news of Mitchell Starc and Royal Challengers Bangalore parting ways on mutual consent. While Dhoni’s decision to reqlinquish captaincy will have little bearing on the auction, Starc’s move opens up the possibility of a multitude of strategies for the franchises.

While Starc’s decision to pull out of auction not only swells RCB’s purse to nearly Rs 18 crore, they will now be serious contenders to grab Ben Stokes, the hottest property in Monday’s auction.

Besides RCB, the English all-rounder will have many takers and primary among them would be Kolkata Knight Riders. The former champions are desperately looking for an effective replacement for West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell who is serving a doping ban.

Delhi Daredevils, with a purse of Rs 23 crore, too may seriously pursue Stokes as may Gujarat Lions and Pune Supergiants. Lions have all-rounders in abundance in Ravindra Jadeja, James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo but an injury concern to the last mentioned is likely to force the Rajkot-based team to get another all-rounder on board. Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews and New Zealand’s Corey Anderson, both pace-bowling all-rounders are likely attract some serious bidding.

Some of the international schedules too may influence franchises’ preference of players. Not to forget, the contract is going to be only for the forthcoming season with all teams going for fresh auctions to form their teams for the 11th edition of the league (2018).

There is no clarity on retention of players after the first instalment of 10 years of the league. It also needs to be seen which shape the league takes place once the two-year ban on Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals ends after this season. With clarity needed on all several such things, one may witness restrained enthusiasm at the bidding.

Also, with England-South Africa bilateral series clashing with the business end of the IPL, there is talk of players from these two countries being pulled out of the league. Such a move at the stage of the tournament may upset team combinations and hence the franchises may opt for players from New Zealand and Australia besides investing heavily in local talent.

English players, who have listed themselves in such large numbers for the first time since IPL began in 2008, were expected to be the biggest draw in this edition but uncertainty over their availability for the duration of the league may see a majority of them untouched or bought at bargain price.

Besides all-rounders, the overseas fast bowlers are going to be in demand with the likes of Kagiso Rabada (South Africa), Tymal Mills (England), Pat Cummins (Australia) and Trent Boult (New Zealand), among others, in the fray.

South African leggie Imran Tahir, who was released by Daredevils, is also likely to generate big interest among spinners as would English batsmen Jason Roy, Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan from those looking to bolster their overseas batting group.

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