The on-field action of the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is still a couple of months away but on 18 February, representatives of all eight franchises will gather in Chennai for an intense off the field battle - the much-awaited players' auction.
A total of 164 Indians along with 128 overseas cricketers will be up for grabs this time around and the franchises have already set their plan of action to fetch their preferred players at the right price.
Here, we will analyse the possible auction strategies of two former champions – Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).
Kolkata Knight Riders
Purse: INR 10.75 crore
Slots available: Eight, including two overseas
Retained players: Eoin Morgan (C), Dinesh Karthik (WK), Tim Seifert (WK), Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Lockie Ferguson, Pat Cummins, Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill, Rinku Singh, Rahul Tripathi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Mavi, Varun Chakravarthy
Released players: Tom Banton (WK), Nikhil Naik (WK), Chris Green, Siddharth M, Siddhesh Lad, Ali Khan
Heading into this auction, the Eoin Morgan-led and Shah Rukh Khan co-owned team is left with a purse of INR 10.75 crore, which, along with SRH, is the lowest amongst the eight franchises. However, unlike SRH, the Men in Purple have quite a few holes to plug.
The primary concern for the Knights is to find a proper opening partner for Shubman Gill. IPL 2020 saw a decline in Sunil Narine's reputation as a pinch-hitter at the top. As a result, the team management had to try quite a few combinations towards the second half of the tournament but a permanent solution wasn't found.
This year, they have the Kiwi wicketkeeper-opening batsman Tim Seifert but would also look for other options. Hence, in this auction, someone like England's Dawid Malan or Aussie limited-overs skipper Aaron Finch will be on their radar.
Meanwhile, with a limited budget, getting Malan, who is the present No 1 ranked T20I batsman in the world, will be a difficult task for KKR. So, they might look to target another Englishman, Jason Roy, who is rated pretty highly by skipper Morgan. Another option could be New Zealand's Martin Guptill, who had played a lot of cricket alongside KKR's coach Brendan McCullum.
Amongst the uncapped Indian options, Kerala's Mohammed Azharuddeen and Saurashtra's Avi Barot, who were mighty impressive during the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, are expected to find a bid from this franchise.
Furthermore, time has perhaps come for KKR to look beyond Narine's mystery spin that has lost its mojo in recent years. The West Indian has also struggled with his bowling action.
Hence, as his backup, the Knights might prefer someone like Mujeeb ur Rahman, the young Afghan spinner, who was earlier released by Kings XI Punjab. Also, to bolster their all-rounder department, someone like Shivam Dube or New Zealand's Kyle Jamieson can be a decent pick. Ideally, Morgan and Co would prefer to secure the services of Aussie all-rounder Cameron Green, who raised quite a few eyebrows during his recent outings against India. However, we can expect intense bidding for the youngster, and teams with a larger purse than KKR might have the last laugh.
Purse: INR 10.75 crore
Slots available: Three, including one overseas
Retained players: David Warner (C), Jonny Bairstow (WK), Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Shreevats Goswami (WK), Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Virat Singh, Priyam Garg, Abdul Samad, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul, T Natarajan, Abhishek Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem, Mitchell Marsh, Vijay Shankar, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Basil Thampi, Jason Holder
Released players: Billy Stanlake, Fabian Allen, Sanjay Yadav, B Sandeep, and Yarra Prithvi Raj
With the core group of players being retained and just three slots to fill this year, the two-time former champion SRH will not be much active in the auction. However, with an available purse of more than INR 10 crore, the 'Orange Army' will probably go all-out for an overseas fast bowler who can replace Billy Stanlake. From that point of view, England's Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood as well as Australia's Jhye Richardson will be on their scheme of things for sure.
Both Plunkett and Wood are proven international performers whereas 24-year old Richardson has now fully recovered from a shoulder injury and recently had a terrific Big Bash League for Perth Scorchers in which he took 29 scalps in 17 games and played a pivotal role in his team's journey to the final.
If SRH can't get a decent overseas pacer, SRH will probably look to invest on Shakib Al Hasan, who was released by them in 2019 after the Bangladesh all-rounder was suspended for one year from all forms of cricket by the ICC.
Amongst the uncapped Indian options, the Hyderabad-based franchise should look for a wicketkeeper-batsman like Kedar Devdhar, who can be a quality backup for the injury-prone Wriddhiman Saha.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
The 34-year-old had sustained the injury during the second ODI against India in November and was subsequently ruled out of the third game in Canberra, the three-match T20 series and the first two Tests.
Mumbai, with four stadiums — Wankhede, Brabourne, DY Patil and Reliance Stadium, was seen as the favourite to host IPL 2021.
Conway blazed his way to a 59-ball unbeaten 99 and powered the Black Caps to a resounding win in the first of the five T20 International against Australia.