By Nishad Pai Vaidya
It is that time of the year when international cricketers go under the auctioneer’s hammer. The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013 off-the-field action gets under way with the player auction in Chennai on Sunday, February 3. While the purists look away, the interest and the hype surrounding the players is unmistakable. There is always a sense of curiosity and a bit of suspense as the world watches each name being read out and the franchises raise their bids. The obvious questions that do the rounds: Who will bag the highest price? Will the big names feature in the franchises’ plans?
The hype surrounding the auction for IPL 2013 is about Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting. The Aussie duo has been put in the Marquee Players category – the biggest attraction. But will the franchises put their money on them? Clarke isn’t known as a big hitter and has largely stayed away from T20 cricket, whereas Ponting is 38 and retired from international cricket. Nevertheless, the franchises may look beyond these parameters to pick them.
What the teams will realise is that they aren’t just picking the two players – but two established leaders in their own right. Clarke has been remarkable for Australia and has done well to lead them through the transition phase. It hasn’t been as rocky as one imagined and some of the results have been fantastic for them. A news agency reported that Mumbai Indians may be interested in him because of his leadership skills. With the kind of form he is in, he might be able to up the tempo in the shortest format. One never knows when a player would adjust to the new format as a good Test cricketer can tune his game to the demands of T20 cricket.
As far as Ponting is concerned, age shouldn’t be such a big hurdle. Some of his Australian compatriots have been brilliant in the IPL even after retirement from international cricket. Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne led their respective sides to victories and also put in performances to showcase their class. Ponting may have retired, but he had a good time in the recently concluded Big Bash League (BBL). The fact that he was shortlisted for the Player of the Tournament reflects his good performance and he is enjoying his cricket. Interestingly, he rolled his arm over a few times during the tournament.
Johan Botha and Rudra Pratap Singh complete the list of the Marquee players. Botha can be a good buy as he can be miserly with his off-spin and can be a floater in the batting line-up. RP Singh should garner interest as the teams would look to bolster their Indian resources. They might have a good pack of foreign players, but all aren’t going to play. Thus, the likes of Abhishek Nayar, Ramesh Powar, Manpreet Gony and Pankaj Singh may attract some buyers. The other Indians in the auction list are Wasim Jaffer, Sudeep Tyagi and Jaidev Unadkat.
Dirk Nannes was released by the Royal Challengers Bangalore and it wasn’t such a surprise as he wasn’t fitting into their scheme of things. A team that is looking for a fast-bowler and can accommodate a foreigner in the eleven might be interested in him. He is easily one of the most dangerous T20 bowlers and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t draw any bids. Doug Bollinger was also released by Chennai Super Kings and he might be another fast-bowler who could fit in a few plans.
Glenn Maxwell has made an impression for Australia recently and his stakes have certainly increased when compared to the last IPL. He can bowl handy off-spin and is a hard-hitter who can bat anywhere in the order. Such utility players often get good bids and the all-rounders category may find a number of takers. Darren Sammy, Ravi Bopara, Daniel Christian, James Hopes, James Faulkner, Thissara Perera, Jesse Ryder, Nayar and Moises Henriques form the line-up in that bracket.
In the list, you would find a number of youngsters from Australia and South Africa who are hoping to make a mark in the IPL. Perhaps a Quinton de Kock may be on somebody’s list, but the more established wicket-keepers such as Matthew Wade and Matt Prior might give him good competition. However, the most surprising entry you would find is that of the West Indian Ricardo Powell. Powell was a hard-hitter, but hasn’t played official cricket since 2006. He did feature in the International World XI games in Pakistan last year, but that might not be enough to convince the franchises.
With a few hours to go before the auction, the teams would be calculating the resources in their purse. At this stage, they can only pick their choices and it would all boil down to the competition with the other teams. The contest does heat up a few times and makes an entertaining watch. All eyes on the hammer at Chennai.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_