Still waiting for his disciplinary or legal charges for the Bristol incident in September, Ben Stokes is among the 36 players who have listed their base price at the maximum of INR 2 crore (USD 315,000 approx) ahead of the IPL auction on January 27 and 28.
The most notable names among the 13 Indian and 23 overseas players in the highest-price band were Mitchell Starc, Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Brendon McCullum, Rashid Khan, Chris Gayle and Eoin Morgan.
On Friday, the IPL sent the long list of 1122 players to the eight franchises which includes 281 capped players and 838 uncapped players, including 778 Indians and three players from the Associate nations. A final auction pool would be prepared by the end of next week once the franchises submit their wishlists to the IPL.
As the franchises get ready for the mega two-day auction, one name at the top of their wishlist would be Stokes. The allrounder became the most expensive overseas player bought at an IPL auction when Rising Pune Supergiant paid INR 14.5 crore (USD 2.16 million approx in 2017). Stokes lived up to the hype by helping Pune to the final, which they lost to Mumbai Indians, as he earned the Player-of-the-Tournament award in his maiden IPL.
Stokes scored 316 runs at a strike rate of 142.98 including an unbeaten century while chasing down 162 against Gujarat Lions. He also picked 12 wickets with an economy rate of 7.18 from the 12 matches he played, missing the final because of national duties.
Stokes has not played for England since his arrest on September 26 but represented Canterbury in three one-dayers and as many T20s in December, including a 47-ball 93 in a T20 against Otago. Last week, Stokes was named in the England squad for the two Tests in New Zealand starting in February, although his involvement is subject to any relevant legal or disciplinary developments.
Fast bowler Tymal Mills listed his base price at INR 1 crore (USD 160,000 approx.). Last IPL auction, Mills not just set a new record price for a specialist bowler but was also the second-most expensive sale at the tenth auction when Royal Challengers Bangalore paid INR 12 crore (USD 1.8 million approx in 2017) for him. Mills' returns were five wickets at an economy rate of 8.57 from five matches.
Another international name that is likely to attract huge interest is Starc. Fresh after his Ashes heroics, Starc remains an attractive buy with his ability to deliver the ball at a fiery pace, dart in toe-crushing yorkers and also deceive batsmen with a change of pace. There was hardly any surprise when Royal Challengers paid INR 5 crore (USD 833,000) in 2014, although Starc could only play for them for two seasons; in 2016 he was injured while last year he parted ways with the franchise wanting to balance his workload.
The most overseas entries in the auction came from Australia - 58 names. South Africa were close with 57, and Sri Lanka and West Indies had 39 each. There were 23 players from England and 13 from Afghanistan.
Although most of the top names kept their base prices high, there were some exceptions. India fast bowler Ishant Sharma listed his base price at INR 75 lakhs (USD 118,000 approx). Incidentally, Ishant went unsold at the 2017 auction having listed his base price then at INR 2 crore. His disappointment was soon washed away after he replaced the injured M Vijay for Kings XI Punjab.
Manish Pandey, one of the contenders to lead Kolkata Knight Riders, has pegged his base price at INR 1 crore. Pandey is likely to be retained by Knight Riders through the right-to-match card option at the auction.
Mohammed Siraj, one of the success stories last IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad, listed his base price at INR 1 cr, too. Siraj, who has played two T20Is for India since last year's IPL, was bought by Sunrisers for INR 2.6 cr last year (USD 3,88,000 then). Young Indian offspinner Washington Sundar, who also made his international debut recently, set his base price at INR 1.5 crore (USD 235,000 approx.). Sundar was one of the go-to bowlers for Pune last year and along with Rahul Tripathi, he was instrumental in the team ending as runners-up.
In contrast to the high base prices of Siraj and Sundar, some of the uncapped top performers of last IPL set their price much lower. While Tripathi listed his base price at the minimum - INR 20 lakhs (USD 31,500 approx), Basil Thampi and Krunal Pandya listed theirs at INR 30 lakhs (USD 50,000) and 40 lakhs (USD 63,000) respectively. Thampi was bought by Gujarat Lions for INR 85 lakhs (USD 126,000) last year and was their second-highest wicket-taker in his maiden IPL with 11 wickets, but with an expensive economy rate of 9.49.
Krunal superseded senior bowler Harbhajan Singh with his wickets tally for Mumbai Indians who won the IPL for a third time last year. Krunal scored 243 runs at 34.71 and struck them at 135.75 alongside his 10 wickets and an economy rate of under seven per over. Incidentally, Mumbai were keen on retaining Krunal, but eventually picked his younger brother Hardik. With two right-to-match cards in hand, Mumbai are likely to retain Krunal at the auction. Assam's 16-year old batsman Riyan Parag was the youngest player on the auction list while Mumbai legspinner Pravin Tambe, 46, was the oldest.
With additional inputs by Gaurav Sundararaman