IPL Auction: KP and Flintoff the only Englishmen guaranteed to be bought
February 6th is a big day in world cricket as a second IPL auction will take place to try to find homes for the players who weren't involved first time round. But Andrew Hughes thinks that from the English contingent, only two players are guaranteed to be purchased...
February 6th is Draft Day in the Indian Premier League. Sort of. With the second season of the IPL lumbering towards us like an obese elephant laden with gold, the pre-season auction is the chance for those poor unfortunates who missed out the first time round to get their share of the loot.
Last week the England players managed to wangle themselves a three week window in which to participate in this cashfest and though there remains a lingering issue around their availability for the 2010 edition, this is unlikely to be a significant problem. As you read this, a dozen or so of the nation's finest cricketers are waiting anxiously for the ping of an email marked, 'Mumbai'.
Who is the Fairest of them all?
Being invited to the auction, however, is only half the story. With the eight franchises fully stocked and only ten international players permitted per squad, it is unlikely that all of the players hoping to bag a big money deal will be snapped up.
Indeed, though IPL officials are currently whittling a list of 70 hopefuls down to 50 or so, it is possible that as few as 16 will actually be sold. The rest will presumably have to return home and pretend they never wanted to go anyway. But though the full list of players to be auctioned won't be known until Sunday, we can probably have a good guess at which of the England debutantes will get to go to the ball and who will be the ugly sisters.
The Bleedin' Obvious
I'm sure you won't be stunned to learn that Kevin Pietersen is likely to be the most expensive item on the menu, probably going under the hammer at around US$1.5m. Bangalore Royal Challengers are favourites to obtain his services, which might surprise some who remember their disastrous big money signing of Jacques Kallis last time around. It is true that this year the franchises are likely to be more focused on pure Twenty20 ability than stellar reputations. But there are star names and star names. Pietersen is pure box office, much more so than the big man from the Cape. And he is also a fantastic Twenty20 player. His stats don't lie and from that point of view, if you've got the money, he is a win-win purchase. Just don't ask him if he'd like to be captain.
Bits and Pieces
All-rounders never go out of fashion and though the ICC rankings might suggest otherwise, there is none better than Andrew Flintoff. He might not quite be a Test number six these days, but he can bat as high as four or five in Twenty-20 and his bowling at the death is a priceless asset in these high pressure contests.
Chennai and Mumbai are rumoured to be competing for his signature, a duel that could push his price as high as KP's. But if your finances can't stretch to a Freddie, perhaps you could settle for a Colly. Paul Collingwood can bat a bit, bowl a bit and fling himself around at backward point and even though he isn't doing either of the first two things particularly well at the moment, he offers the sort of no-frills all round ability to ensure that someone will snap him up at a bargain price.
This is where it gets tricky. Various papers have had a stab at predicting who else might be involved. But the consensus of opinion seems to be that those England players with Asian heritage would have most appeal. Samit Patel has been to the fore and he certainly has one hell of an agent. On the back of a few undistinguished performances for England, he has managed to attract the interest of the Delhi Daredevils who have registered him for the auction. The likes of Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara could also be in the frame.
But with so many players chasing so few places, only KP and Freddie can be sure of attracting any bids. And with another batch of Aussies up for grabs, as well as JP Duminy from South Africa and a number of Sri Lankans, don't be surprised if there are more English bridesmaids than brides come February 6th.