Speculation about a possible mega auction ahead of the 2021 Indian Premier League is already building just days after the 2020 edition drew to a close in the UAE.
If a ninth franchise does enter the fray in 2021 as rumoured, then a mega auction will be the only way to even out the playing field. The BCCI is expected to shed more light on the possibility in December, though, the governing body remains tight-lipped right now.
While a mega auction will allow teams to reset their respective rosters, existing rules do allow franchises to retain a few players. Barring no changes in the current stipulations, each team would be allowed to retain three players while holding a Right-to-Match (RTM) option for two other players in the mega auction.
It seems likely that teams will only be allowed to retain a maximum of two overseas players through the RTM and retain options.
With these rules in mind, we look at the players that the eight franchises are likely to keep onto if there is a mega auction before the 2021 edition.
The franchise has now made five consecutive play-off appearances after their third-place finish in the UAE, and will be looking to build on that consistency in the next cycle. That their success has been built around four overseas players in particular will put them in a tight spot when it comes to retention decisions.
The Australian has a strong claim to being the best batsman in IPL history and is a name who is adored by Sunrisers’ loyal fan base. Having scored 500-plus runs in each of his six seasons with the franchise, Warner is guaranteed to be retained as skipper.
With the second overseas spot boiling down to a choice between Rashid Khan and Kane Williamson, it is the Afghan star who is bound to come out on top. He is the No1 T20 bowler in the world and his recent performances in the UAE reaffirmed that those credentials aren’t misplaced.
While his 2020 campaign ended abruptly due to an injury, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is likely to be the first choice for Hyderabad when it comes to domestic players. The India international has been key to the franchise’s success in the last few years and he still has plenty of time left at the top.
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The left-arm seamer turned out to be one of the finds of the 2020 edition and has deservedly been handed a maiden India T20I call-up for the Australia tour. His ability to fire yorkers at will ensure that he would be highly sought after when the auction rolls around.
The Jammu and Kashmir youngster put in some plucky performances in his maiden IPL campaign and looked completely at home while facing some of the biggest names in cricket. As an Indian player who can both bat and bowl, Samad will be an attractive proposition for many franchises.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
The Punjab franchise narrowly missed out on play-off qualification in 2020 after mounting a late charge, though they still had plenty of positives to take from an ultimately unfulfilling campaign. A strong Indian core has been developed, and retaining them would be the chief priority.
KXIP are clearly building KL Rahul to be the face of their franchise for the next few years after promoting him to captaincy status for the 2020 edition. Having just finished the campaign as the league’s highest run-scorer, Rahul remains the perfect candidate to usher in the next era for Punjab.
The India pacer was one of the better performers with the ball for Punjab this year, and his experience will be crucial to their rebuilding efforts for 2021.
The West Indies batsman proved to be a huge hit in the middle-order for KXIP, with his ability to clear the ropes with big sixes. He is poised to be the next superstar of T20 cricket and Punjab will not want to lose his services to another team.
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The young leg-spinner was a delight to watch on his debut IPL campaign and was impressive with his ability to take important wickets in the middle-overs. He kept a seasoned international like Mujeeb ur Rahman away from the playing XI and looks ready to make the next big leap of his promising career.
The India Test stalwart showed he can do the business in limited-overs cricket with some smashing knocks in the UAE which included a superb ton. His partnership with KL Rahul is starting to blossom into a fine one and KXIP will not want to break it up in 2021.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
Bangalore’s perennial title drought continues in the IPL, as Virat Kohli and his men ran out of steam towards the business end of the 2020 edition. Their latest failure will have given them plenty of reasons for introspect, and a mega auction could provide them with the chance to fix some gaping holes in the squad.
Question marks will rightly be raised about Kohli’s captaincy after yet another season without silverware, but there are no doubts about his status as the league’s biggest superstar. His marketing pull and credentials as one of the greatest batsmen in history remain untouched.
AB de Villiers
Even though the South African might be getting on in age, his ability to win matches on his own remains unparalleled. He can still pull off incredible feats with the bat in hand and seems to have a fair few years still left under his belt as a T20 franchise journeyman.
No spinner picked more wickets than Chahal (21) in the UAE and it is easy to see why he is one of Kohli’s personal favourites. He always turns it up for the IPL and will remain a key part of the RCB franchise going forward.
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It was a fine introduction to the IPL for the elegant left-handed batsman who registered five half-centuries in 15 innings. Padikkal lived up to the hype that surrounds him as a budding young batsman and will command plenty of takers if his name gets thrown into the auction ring.
The India-capped youngster impressed with his miserly economy-rates in the powerplay overs in 2020 edition. He carries a cool head on his shoulders and it is hard to believe that he is still only 21. It feels like he has been around for ages.
The defending champions have a settled squad and so they have the most to lose if a mega auction is called. Given the wealth of domestic and overseas talent at their disposal, it will be a tough ask for Mumbai to choose even five players to retain.
As the face of the franchise and the skipper who has led the team to five titles, retaining Rohit will be a given. Even though he didn’t have the most prolific IPL campaigns individually in the UAE, the India superstar remains a huge draw and has a knack of delivering when it matters most.
Keeping hold of Jasprit Bumrah is another no-brainer for Mumbai. The seamer has blossomed into one of the best white-ball bowlers in the world after being discovered as untapped potential by the franchise.
Here’s where things start to get tricky for the five-time champions, but it is hard to look past them retaining the services of Hardik Pandya. While his back injury prevented him from bowling in the just concluded edition, the all-rounder’s finishing abilities with the bat are hard to match.
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Pollard has been an integral part of the franchise since 2010, and Mumbai would loath to see him go to another team via the auction. He also brings with him valuable leadership experience.
While Suryakumar Yadav is equally important to Mumbai’s middle-order, they have invested a lot of patience to develop Ishan Kishan. Now that he has started to finally deliver the goods, Kishan’s young age should see him get the nod over Yadav.
Having finished bottom of the table in the 2020 edition, Rajasthan will welcome a chance to press the reset button. The squad is an extremely unbalanced one, with an enviable overseas contingent handicapped by a weak domestic roster.
The England pacer was deservedly awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy in the UAE, and Rajasthan will want to lock in his services for the foreseeable future. He is a bowler that every franchise in the IPL would love to have on their roster if the chance presented itself.
The destructive England batsman didn’t have the most productive of seasons this time around, though his ability remains undeniable. Rajasthan will not want to bin someone of his quality after just one average campaign.
The Royals are short on Indian talent as it is, and they will want to desperately hold on to someone of Samson’s calibre. He blows hot and cold too often, but is slowly starting to show signs of some consistency.
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The star England all-rounder hasn’t done enough in a Royals jersey to merit a retention barring an explosive century in the recent edition. He remains an elite player, and Rajasthan will welcome the chance to re-buy him in the auction.
The highly rated India U19 star was given a harsh introduction to life in the IPL on his debut campaign and was limited to just a handful of appearances. His potential though, remains immense and Rajasthan will want to reap the benefits when he eventually develops into a world-beater.
Like Mumbai, Delhi have developed a strong and young domestic core in the last few years. They are one of the teams with the most to lose in the case of a mega auction, and would be forced to part ways with some extremely talented players.
The Capitals are clearly grooming Shreyas Iyer to be their long-term skipper and he will certainly be the first player that they will look to lock in for the next cycle. He is a calm influence in the middle-order for Delhi and is starting to hone his leadership skills under the eyes of coach Ricky Ponting.
While his returns in 2020 were poor, Rishabh Pant has been the batting linchpin of a young Delhi core in the last three years. He is still only 23 and his enterprising half-century in the final was a timely reminder of what he can be at his very best.
Having unwisely traded Trent Boult to Mumbai Indians last year, Delhi will not want to repeat their mistake with the South Africa pacer pacer who clinched the Purple Cap in 2020 with 30 wickets.
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The Australian all-rounder had his moments for Delhi in the 2020 edition, and Ponting will be eager to have his genuine match-winning abilities. Consistency is not his forte as of yet, but he does pull off some incredible things when on song.
The batting prodigy flattered to deceive in the UAE and faded away after a bright start to the campaign. His potential is too good to throw away just yet, and Delhi will want the chance to get him back.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
An aging squad was shown up in the UAE and the franchise are clearly in urgent need of a revamp. While they will be glad to have a mega auction to freshen up the squad, it would put them in a big bind with regards to MS Dhoni’s future.
The CSK skipper shut down talks of any IPL retirement by confirming he will be a part of the 2021 edition. His powers look to be on the decline, with the 2020 season proving to be one of his leanest. Yet, Dhoni’s name has been synonymous with the franchise ever since the IPL’s inception and Chennai will be hard pressed to shift their icon just yet.
The England youngster emerged as one of the few positives from a bleak CSK campaign and clearly represents the future of the franchise. Chennai will be wise to build their future squad around Curran after his exploits with both bat and ball in the UAE.
Chennai’s philosophy has always revolved around having an experienced core, and Jadeja is now at the perfect stage of his career to don a leadership role with the franchise. Utility cricketers who can do it all do not come any better than the versatile all-rounder who is just coming off his most fruitful IPL campaign with the bat.
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One of the reasons for Chennai’s strong finish to the season were the three successive fifties struck by the young opening batsman. At 23, Gaikwad is just getting started at the IPL and CSK will want the opportunity to buy him back in the auction.
The seamer has become integral to Chennai’s bowling attack with 44 wickets in the three most recent editions of the IPL. Quality Indian pacers are always a precious commodity in the IPL and Chahar can always be relied upon for quick wickets with the new ball.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
It was not the league finish Kolkata would have wanted after they shelled out an extremely high sum to secure Pat Cummins’ signature in last year’s auction. Having changed skippers midway through the campaign before missing out on the play-offs, KKR will appreciate the opportunity to refresh their squad.
The star West Indies all-rounder has been the MVP of the tournament in 2018 and 2019, but 2020 wasn’t to be his year. Despite his dismal returns with the bat in 2020, Russell will always be the first name on the sheet when Kolkata look to build for the next cycle.
The England white-ball skipper finally came good in the IPL after disappointing campaigns given his high standards previously, and was even elevated to the captaincy after Dinesh Karthik stepped down. As one of the most explosive limited-overs batsmen in the world, Morgan would certainly be retained.
Gill’s strike-rate this season might have invited some groans, but the young batsman is already on his way to establishing himself as the next superstar of Indian cricket. If he comes anywhere close to fulfilling his massive potential, then Kolkata will have a gem on their hands.
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Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti
The KKR team management has invested plenty of faith in the two former India U19 pacers despite the pair spending a lengthy spell on the sidelines with injuries. Given that the duo have just started to overcome their injury woes, KKR will want to be a part of their next phase of development as bowlers.