The player auction for the 2017 Indian Premier League is taking place on Monday February 20. Here’s what to look out for.
It’s been heavily rumoured that Ben Stokes has caught the eye of one-man hype machine Virat Kohli, and that India’s captain wants the Durham allrounder to join him at Royal Challengers Bangalore. While Stokes may struggle to dislodge the overseas positions of de Villiers, Gayle and Starc, he could be an upgrade on ageing Australian Shane Watson.
Kohli and RCB could be gazumped, though, by the Kolkata Knight Riders. They’ll be looking for an Andre Russell replacement and may look to Stokes as an alternative fast-bowling allrounder.
However, KKR have other options. Despite his injury problems, many were surprised when Mumbai Indians decided not to retain Corey Anderson for 2017. With a strike-rate of 138 and an average of 25, the Kiwi is almost worth his place as a batsman alone – that he backs up his hitting with useful left-arm seam is a bonus.
An alternative could be Jason Holder. Despite not boasting a spectacular record, the Barbados Tridents allrounder has an impressive economy-rate of 7.58, and a strike-rate of 125. A cheaper option than either Stokes or Anderson, KKR may see Holder as a place-saver until Russell’s return in 2018.
Big Bash Stars
Rumours of an international return have been circling around Mitchell Johnson since his stellar Big Bash, and his 13 wickets for the Perth Scorchers, including a superb performance in the final, will have marked him out as one of the hottest talents on offer. Few teams wouldn’t benefit from Johnson’s services, but Gujarat Lions in particular could be looking to replace the star quality of Dale Steyn with another international legend.
Equally successful was Adelaide Strikers star Ben Dunk, who top-scored at the BBL, making 364 runs in eight games. As with the bowling of his compatriot Sean Abbott – who may also get an IPL deal – Dunk’s style may not transfer well to Indian conditions (relying on pace on the ball to carve the ball to the boundary) but as a back-up batsman in remarkable form, many teams could see Dunk as a safe bet.
While India was a tour to forget for England, Tymal Mills may look back on it as a landmark moment. With an economy-rate of 7.80 across the three T20Is, taking three wickets and completing his allocation in each game, Mills looked every bit the T20 specialist. Rotating between the 90mph short stuff, and a sophisticated array of slower balls, his game is perfectly suited to the subcontinent. For teams light on high-quality seam bowling – Delhi Daredevils or KKR spring to mind – the Englishman could be a good budget option.
While Mills was preparing for his Indian star turn, Sean Abbott was lighting up the Big Bash as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker. The Sydney Sixers seamer has played two games for RCB, but is yet to make a real impression on the tournament – while the conditions won’t suit him as much as the Gabba, such impressive domestic form cannot be ignored.
It turns out you can buy experience, and there will no doubt be plenty of IPL teams trying to do so. With almost 20 years of professional cricket behind him, Michael Klinger certainly warrants the ‘old boy’ title, but in some ways his career is just taking off. His consistently excellent BBL form has just resulted in his first Australia call-up, for the T20I series against Sri Lanka. Strong performances will be fresh in the memories of team owners and a T20 average of 39 combined with a strike-rate of 127 make him the ideal player to build a batting order around. His low starting price of 30 lakh may well attract speculative bids from Mumbai Indians or KKR, who are short on overseas batting talent.
There’s experience and then there’s experience. Forty-five-year-old Brad Hogg impressed at the Big Bash with the Melbourne Renegades, and his ageless left-arm wrist-spin could prove effective on Indian wickets. The Daredevils and Sunrisers will keep a close eye on the Australian, keen to grab a bargain.
This may be the first time in his life that Chris Woakes has been described as a wildcard. Usually the ever-dependable nice guy of England and Warwickshire’s seam attack, Woakes’ stellar 2016 has raised his profile. Not currently in England’s T20 team, he nevertheless impressed with the white ball in the ODI matches this winter, proving accurate with the new ball and difficult to get away. He’s unproven in high-profile T20 tournaments, and he may be too unsuited to the conditions to be a complete success, but he’s undoubtedly a quality cricketer. He’s set his reserve price at the very top, which is a slight surprise, but will mean it’s doubly good news for him if he does get a gig.
Far more familiar with the wildcard tag is Surrey’s Jason Roy, a precociously talented opening batsman who’ll be eyeing the auction with glee. Solid scores of 32, 10, and 19 in the recent T20 series don’t fully show what a destructive hitter he can be, as fans of the Sydney Thunder can attest.
This year’s BBL saw Roy launch one six so cleanly over mid-wicket that even the opposing Sixers bowler gave a wry smile. He’s prone to dips in form but if he gets going, he goes big – Rising Pune Supergiants may look to him to fill the void left by Kevin Pietersen’s absence.