Over the last few years, the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction has turned into something that cricketers and fans follow with keen interest. It is especially an important day for the players as the IPL not only tends to give them financial security but also an opportunity to impress in front of huge audiences.
Often, in recent times, we have seen players who’ve performed well in intra-state T20 leagues such as the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) and Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) do well in the IPL auction. Unfortunately, in 2020, most such leagues couldn’t be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic which means a lot of players missed out on promising platforms to showcase their talent. Having said that, though, there was the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy held recently and there were a few players who would have definitely caught the eye of franchise scouts.
On the other hand, there are 128 overseas players who will be part of the auction. While Mitchell Starc is missing again from the list, there are a lot of quality players around, for whom there could be bidding wars during the auction in Chennai on 18 February 2021.
Here, we look at five players who have never been part of an IPL franchise previously but are likely to interest teams during this season’s auction.
During last season’s auction, Kolkata Knight Riders acquired Australian pacer Pat Cummins for INR 15.5 crore. While Cummins is considered as one of the foremost bowlers in world cricket, other Australian pacemen like Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson also went for pretty big amounts. This shows that overseas fast bowlers tend to be in demand, especially if they have performed well in limited overs cricket.
Considering the aforementioned reasons, don’t be surprised if Jhye Richardson is the Australian pacer who gets sold for a good price this time around. Richardson was excellent in the recent Big Bash League, where he ended as the tournament’s highest wicket-taker, with 29 wickets at a strike rate of 12.7. He also impressed in an ODI series when Australia toured India in 2019, accounting for eight dismissals in three matches.
Dawid Malan has been truly sensational in T20 cricket at the international level. In 19 matches, he has a remarkable batting average of 53.43 while also striking at 149.47 per 100 deliveries. This form has seen him rise to the top of the batting rankings in Men’s T20Is. The fact that he has 915 rating points and second-placed KL Rahul has 816 shows how ahead of the rest of the competition he has been.
One disadvantage that Malan has going into the auction is that most teams have good top-order batsmen. Most franchises, in these smaller auctions, usually attempt to fill gaps in the lower middle-order and in the bowling line-up. While that might account against the England batsman, he is a premier batter as his T20I stats show and there are at least a couple of teams for whom Malan would be the perfect fit.
In the recently-held Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT), Avi Borat was the fourth-highest run-scorer – in five innings, he scored 283 runs at an average of 56.6. But what stood out for the Saurashtra batsman was his batting strike rate of 184.97 during the tournament. He scored a 53-ball 122 against Goa while also managing 93 off 44 deliveries against Vidarbha. Those two knocks would have particularly caught the eye of IPL franchises.
As mentioned earlier, most teams have good top-order batsmen, but Barot’s ability is not something that a lot of batsmen possess. He can also keep wickets and has done so on numerous occasions in domestic cricket which is an added bonus.
Before the start of SMAT 2020-21, Mohammad Azharuddeen had a batting average of only 14.81 and a strike rate of 114.5 in T20 cricket. The tournament that proceeded has possibly changed his career, especially the knock that he played for Kerala against Mumbai on 13 January 2021.
Chasing a target of 197, Azharuddeen started with a positive mindset and took the Mumbai bowlers to the cleaners. He reached his century in just 37 deliveries, the second-fastest by any batsman in the history of SMAT. He ended up scoring an unbeaten 137 from 54 deliveries. Across the season, he scored 214 runs at a strike rate of 194.55 in five innings, with two other 30+ scores apart from the aforementioned hundred.
Another player who was impressive during SMAT was Chetan Sakariya. A teammate of Barot, Sakariya ended the tournament with 12 wickets at a strike rate of 10. In addition to his wicket-taking ability, what stood out was his economy rate of 4.9 during the tournament – among bowlers who took 10+ wickets, no one conceded fewer runs per over.
An added advantage for Sakariya is the fact that he is a left-arm pacer and there aren’t many good Indian bowlers with that skillset around. In IPL 2020, only 37 wickets were taken by Indian left-arm fast bowlers as opposed to 150 picked up by the Indian right-arm quicks. Sakariya has shown that he has good variations which might see him get selected by an IPL franchise.