With barely a couple of weeks to go for the IPL mega auction, all 10 franchises — Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Capitals, SunRisers Hyderabad, Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Lucknow Super Giants and yet to be named Ahmedabad team — are busy finalising their targets for what could be a grand season of the Indian Premier League. The BCCI is yet to confirm the venue for the mega auction but secretary Jay Shah has confirmed that it will take place on February 12 and 13. The 15th edition of IPL is likely to begin in the last week of March. Unlike the other auctions, which take place every year before the tournament, the mega auction, carries special significance. It is these two days that decide how a franchise will shape up for the next three seasons. All the teams have tried to retain some of their core group – not more than four cricketers – and hence, all eyes will be on how they strengthen their squads with overseas recruitment.
Here are five overseas openers that can spark a bidding war in the IPL mega auction:
David Warner: The IPL’s most successful overseas batter with 5,449 runs in 149 matches, David Warner is likely to be a hot pick in the mega auction. The attacking Australian, who led the Sunrisers Hyderabad to the IPL 2016 title, had an unceremonious exit from the franchise last year when he was removed as captain and subsequently dropped from the playing XI. The fact the SRH chose Kane Williamson and two youngsters – Abdul Samad and Umran Malik – over Warner as their retention choices, was a clear indication that they are not interested in continuing with the long association with Warner. That, however, opens up an array of opportunities for Warner. Many teams can benefit from his swashbuckling batting at the top and his leadership skills.
Jonny Bairstow: The England heavyweight was one of the major stars for Sunrisers Hyderabad at the top of the order for the last few seasons of IPL. Bairstow has a strike rate of 142.19 in the IPL, which is far better than most of the openers playing in the tournament. Teams like KKR, who have struggled to find a solid opener after Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa’s exit, can eye Bairstow in the mega auction. The fact that he can don the gloves, makes him a good option.
Jason Roy: Bairstow’s opening partner for England and another blistering player at the top of the order. Jason Roy too last played for SRH. The right-hander can single-handedly demolish bowling attacks if he gets going and does get going quite often in white-ball cricket. The likes of Punjab Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore can pay a lot of money to get his services.
Faf du Plessis: It was unfortunate that Chennai Super Kings were not able to retain Faf du Plessis. He has been one of the stalwarts of their batting unit for the last few seasons. A pillar at the top of the order and an outstanding outfielder, the former South African captain will be on CKS’s wishlist for sure but don’t be surprised if other franchises lift the paddle to get Faf on-board.
Quinton de Kock: The South Africa wicketkeeper-batter is one of the cleanest strikers of the ball in world cricket at the moment. He proved his mettle many a times while opening the batting for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL. Now that he has retired from red-ball cricket, his full concentration will be on making the most the opportunities he gets in limited-overs cricket and what better platform than the IPL? De Kock was in pretty good form in the recently-concluded ODI series against India. The scouts must have had a close watch on the left-hander. Expect the stocks to rise when de Kock’s name comes up in the mega auction.
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