Top talent set to strike it rich

Top talent set to strike it rich

Top talent set to strike it rich

Ben Stokes or Chris Gayle? Ravichandran Ashwin or Mitchell Starc? In the biggest T20 league in world cricket, it is decision time on Saturday as the eight franchises look to assemble formidable combinations for the eleventh edition of the tournament

The annual players' auction of the Indian Premier League -- a major one spread over two days - pretty much looks like the first one held in 2008. Barring a maximum of three retained players for each team, all of them have been stripped bare and the auction is the place where they can build a side which they can hold onto for the next three years.

As such, teams will be looking to strike a balance between superstar players, Indian stars, all-rounders, batsmen and bowlers. Generally, most teams come prepared with who they want to have in their armoury and have no hesitation in breaking their bank for a few of them when many parties get involved. However, when things don't go as intended, they will have come up different plans.

The auction should kick off on a pulsating note when the opening lot of Marquee players is opened. Along with some established names in world cricket, the pot contains the name of star England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who went for a jaw-dropping 14.5 crore at last year's auction. Although he's been charged with affray back home and a court hearing is pending, Stokes has been cleared to play and there's no doubt some teams will do anything to procure his services. The 26-year-old old justified the huge amount Rising Pune Supergiant paid for him last year with a man of the series performance, excelling in all departments of the game.

Australian pace spearhead Mitchell Starc is also among the candidates to land a windfall. The left-armer pulled out of the IPL just a day before the auction last time but this time has placed himself in the top bracket, knowing how priceless he can be. But he is prone to injuries and that could be a worry.

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis is also in the top bracket and teams desperate for a calm leader and a class batsman will definitely have their eyes cast on him. One guy from the big list who could receive a mixed reaction is Chris Gayle. The West Indian, perhaps the most destructive opener in T20s with 20 centuries, has endured a lean patch. At 38 years, age is also not on his side but there's no doubt the explosiveness he can bring.

Like Stokes, there is a host of English players who will go under the hammer and most of them could go for big sums. After more than a decade, the ECB seems to have finally listened to their players and the presence of Test skipper Joe Root is an indication of their changed stance. Jason Roy, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler and Alex Hales are some best batsmen in the shorter format and if their availability is confirmed for the full stretch of IPL, then expect them to earn millions.

Teams will also be hoping their scouts have given them enough details of the domestic talent in the country. Each team will have to field seven Indians in the playing XI and they form the crux. A whole load of talented players is in the list and it all depends on who the teams want.

Another thing about the auction is its unpredictable nature. There have been occasions when players hitherto unheard of have gone for huge amounts while teams have remained silent when accomplished names have been read out by the auctioneer Richard Madley. With so many players in the fray, such instances could repeat.

Having said that, teams have become wiser through experience by and large. They will have done their homework and would be prepared for the two-day examination. How they fare will be watched by millions around the world.

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