Kevin Pietersen is one of the marquee players, who will be up for grabs in the auction © PTI
Kevin Pietersen is one of the marquee players, who will be up for grabs in the auction © PTI

The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016, which is scheduled to happen between April 9 and May 29 this year, kicks-off its season 9 with the player auction in Bengaluru on Saturday, February 6 and Sunday, February 7. A total of 351 players will go under the hammer, out of which a maximum of 116 can be picked. A total of 67 batsmen — including capped, uncapped, Indian and overseas players — are in the fray to be picked by the eight franchises. The two new teams, Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) and Gujarat Lions (GL) are expected to buy most of them as they look to build their squads as against other teams who have more or less a settled unit in place. Chinmay Jawalekar takes a look at 10 batsmen who can be the hot picks at this year’s player auction  READ: IPL 2016 Player Auction: Top 10 bowlers to watch out for

1.  Kevin Pietersen: The England exile turned T20 mercenary, Kevin Pietersen has been in tremendous form of late. He went into the Big Bash League (BBL) 2015-16 riding high on his scores of 115 not out, 100 not out, 68 and 59 in South Africa’s domestic T20 tournament Ram slam and finished as the third top run-getter in his team Melbourne Star’s dream run to the final. He is playing in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) at the moment and there are already calls for his England comeback for the ICC World T20 2016. He is one of the eight marquee players for this year’s auction and his base price of Rs. 2 crores should not come in his way of finding an IPL home.

2.  Usman Khawaja: Clearly in the form of his life at the moment, Usman Khawaja is going to be another hot pick at the IPL player auction. He finished as the second highest run scorer behind Chris Lynn in the recently concluded BBL, where his knock of 70 in the final helped Sydney Thunder clinch the title. The cricket fraternity is going gaga about this stylish southpaw, who has improved tremendously in the recent months. His base price is Rs. 1 crore, and he is expected to be a huge addition to the cash-rich league. READ: Delhi Daredevils (DD) in IPL 2016: Know your team

3.  Aaron Finch: Another marquee player, the Australian T20I captain Aaron Finch is expected to be another big buy at the auction. He has previously played for now defunct Pune Warriors, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Mumbai Indians (MI) in IPL. MI released him as he was unavailable for most parts of the previous season after picking an injury during the initial stages of the league. His base price is Rs. 1 crore.

4.  Martin Guptill: Martin Guptill should make his IPL debut, following his dream run in over the last one year. He has been consistent for New Zealand at the top of the order and has been scoring heavily, that too at a freakishly brisk pace. He too is a marquee player and is smartly priced at Rs. 50 lakhs, which means he can be a good buy at the auction. The two new teams RPS and GL can go after him to fill in their opening slots. Watch out for him at the auction!

5.  Michael Hussey: This could well be the last hurrah for Mr. Cricket Michael Hussey, who recently played his last game in the BBL and ended it in style. Leading his team Sydney Thunder, Hussey brought all his experience to the table and helped them end their title drought. With 306 runs in nine games, he ended the BBL 2015-16 as the fourth highest run-getter. His runs came at a decent strike rate too; 131.33. The only thing that can possibly go against the veteran is his base price of Rs. 2 crores.

6.  Travis Head: Another exciting talent from Down Under, Head recently made his T20I debut against India. He was rewarded for his BBL heroics, where he was the fifth highest run scorer behind Lynn, Khawaja, Pietersen and Hussey. He even hit a hundred in the league and scored at a strike rate of over 150. He also bowls off-spin and can be a handy buy at his base price of Rs. 30 lakhs. READ: Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in IPL 2016: Know your team

7.  Karun Nair: Finally an Indian on the list! Karun Nair has been a consistent performer for Karnataka at the domestic circuit and on the fringes for India selection as well. He has played in the IPL under the watchful eyes of Rahul Dravid, who nurtured him at Rajasthan Royals (RR) and rates him quite highly. Smartly priced at Rs. 10 lakhs, Nair can be a handy buy for any franchise.

8.  Rilee Rossouw: The South African southpaw is another exciting hard-hitter who is in the fray. He has previously played for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and is a regular in South Africa’s limited-overs squads these days. He can be a good buy too. However, the only thing that might go against him is his base price of Rs. 1 crore, which looks a bit on the higher side.

9.  Mahela Jayawardene: The Sri Lankan legend, who quit the game in 2014, has been playing in the T20 leagues around the world. He played in the Cricket All-Stars league last year and also in the recently concluded BBL. Playing for Adelaide Strikers, Jayawardene scored 191 runs from seven games at a strike rate of over 120. Though he has been in the nick, his base price of Rs. 1.5 crore may go against him. But again, the experience he adds to any team is priceless. READ: Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) in IPL 2016: Know your team

10.  Nic Maddinson: The explosive Australian has previously played for RCB in IPL and has also represented Australia in two T20Is. He is one of the few exciting youngsters who have come up through the ranks in recent times. Though he did not quite set the stage on fire during the BBL, his base price of Rs. 50 lakhs might find him an IPL home.

 (A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)