Chennai: The stage is set for yet another action before the real action begins, as the franchises will gather in Chennai on Thursday in their attempts to make their respective teams better in the 14th edition of the Indian Premier league which is likely to be held in India.
Among the many who would be closely watched will be Australian Glenn Maxwell who is expected to be a hot favourite, along with England's spin bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali during a condensed IPL players auction here.
A total of 292 players have been enlisted for the shortened auctions, 164 Indian and 125 overseas, besides three associate players who will come under the hammer.
With 61 slots across eight franchises up for grabs, Royal Challengers Bangalore has the maximum, 11 vacancies, to fill with a purse of Rs 35.4 crore while Sunrisers Hyderabad has only three slots available with Rs 10.75 crore in its kitty.
The highest purse available is with Anil Kumble coached Punjab Kings, formerly Kings XI Punjab, which has Rs 53.20 crore available for spending on nine spots.
With the IPL back in India after being held in the UAE last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, focus will be on big-hitters as well as slow bowlers, Maxwell and Moeen.
However, Maxwell averages 22 in the tournament, having played 82 matches for his 1505 runs. He last played for Punjab.
Moeen, on the other hand, was seen in action for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the previous season.
While Maxwell and his former skipper Steve Smith are both in the highest bidding category of Rs 2 crore, one name that will surely attract attention is world's No.1 ranked T20 batsman Dawid Malan from England.
A strike-rate of nearly 150 in 19 T20 Internationals has catapulted Malan into limelight and a few teams may like to raise their bids for the 33-year-old with a base price of Rs 1.5 crore.
One of the most keenly-watched teams going into the auction will be Chennai Super Kings after a nightmarish 2020 season when they failed to qualify for the IPL play-offs for the first time in tournament's history.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni and head coach Stephen Fleming have always valued experience way more than exuberance of youth in their team.
A case in point is Robin Uthappa, who hasn't performed for at least five seasons, being picked by CSK from Rajasthan Royals during the trading window with an all-cash deal.
"Check out the kind of players Dhoni picks. It's always middle level senior guys who have experience of handling pressure situations. It doesn't matter how the guy is perceived as a player in the fraternity.
"The only time his expectations didn't match was with Kedar Jadhav. Or else, he likes a bit of seniority and those with game awareness," a source close to the franchise told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
So, with nearly Rs 20 crore (19.90 crore) to spend and six vacancies to fill, Dhoni will look at some potential big hitters to help him, Suresh Raina and Faf du Plessis in the middle.
Since the IPL will be held in India, Maxwell despite his under-achieving stats could be picked for his skills as a tight off-break bowler on slower tracks.
In case of Malan, Kings XI Punjab could walk away with him considering their purse and lack of consistent firepower at the top of the order.
The only part that is debatable about Malan is how good he is when it comes to playing slow bowlers in Indian conditions.
Among Indian players, the three notable capped names are Kedar Jadhav, veteran off-spinner Harbhajn Singh and fast bowler Umesh Yadav.
The auction dynamics, when it comes to Indian players, have been very different compared to foreign players due to the limited available slots (8) in each squad.
For example, a Yuvraj Singh or a Jaydev Unadkat, despite underwhelming performances season after season, got bank breaking deals simply because they are Indian players with specific skill sets.
That's the reason Sunrisers Hyderabad or a Rajasthan Royals won't mind having an Umesh on board because of his experience at the highest level.
Similarly, Kedar and Harbhajan, with high-end base prices may go unsold during the first lot. But they are likely to picked up in the final hour after franchises have settled squads.
Ditto for Steve Smith, among those with the highest base price but having a strike-rate which is not the greatest for a top-order batsman, might not find too many bidders unless any franchise is looking for a suitable captaincy candidate.
As usual, there would be some eye-popping bids for the uncapped domestic players like Kerala's Mohammed Azharuddeen (Junior), Tamil Nadu's handsome hulk Shah Rukh Khan, all-rounder R Sonu Yadav, Baroda's Vishnu Solanki and Bengal's Akash Deep. They could invite mini-bidding wars with their lowest base price bracket of Rs 20 lakh.
Mumbai Indians (15.35 crore) and Delhi Capitals (Rs 13.40 crore) will require seven and eight players respectively but the finalists of last year probably have a stable core and can look at improvising during the auctions.