New Delhi: India opening batter KL Rahul is set to lead the Lucknow franchise in the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2022) with an eye to pick Australian allrounder Marcus Stoinis and uncapped Indian leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi via draft ahead of the mega auction, scheduled for February 12 and 13 in Bangalore.

Rahul, who will lead India in the ODI series in South Africa, in all likelihood will also captain the Lucknow, which was bought for Rs 7,090 crore (USD 940 million approx.) last October by the RP Sanjiv Goenka Group.

The franchise will go into the auction with a purse of Rs 60 crore — Rahul cost them Rs 15 crore, Stoinis Rs 11 crore, and Bishnoi Rs 4 crore, an EspnCricinfo report said,

The 29-year-old has been one of the most consistent batters in the IPL since the 2018. The opener led Punjab Kings in the last two seasons but he wanted a change and was subsequently released by the management.

After starting his IPL career in 2013 when Rahul was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore, he went to Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2014, and was traded back to Royal Challengers in 2016 before the Punjab franchise (then Kings XI Punjab) paid Rs 11 crore to buy him in the 2018 auction.

While the Punjab team didn’t perform as per the expectations under his leadership, Rahul had a great outing with the bat. He scored 2,548 runs at an average of 56.62 including 25 fifty-plus scores — two of them hundreds — in 55 innings in four IPL seasons with Punjab. However, his strike rate was a point of discussion.

Meanwhile, Lucknow will be the fourth IPL franchise for Stoinis. The Australian had started his IPL journey in 2015 with Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals), where he returned in 2020 after being bought for INR 4.8 crore.

In the 27 matches he has played for the Capitals, 32-year-old Stoinis scored 441 runs at a strike rate of 142.71 and picked 15 wickets. In between, the all-rounder had also turned out for Punjab Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

On the other hand, Bishnoi, impressed with his performance in the 2020 Under-19 World Cup in South Africa, where he finished as the leading wicket-taker. He was picked by Punjab in the 2020 auction for Rs 2 crore.

With his brilliant performance, the spinner quickly became the lead spinner for Punjab, and took 12 wickets in 14 matches in his first season, and in 2021, he had 12 wickets from nine matches. Overall, he has an economy rate of 6.95.

In another IPL development, the other new franchise — Ahmedabad are all set to pick Hardik Pandya, Rashid Khan and Shubman Gill.

With both the new teams finalising their players, the cap set by the IPL, the focus will be on the auction, which is scheduled for February 12 and 13 in Bengaluru.

(With IANS Inputs)