Former West Indies captain Brian Lara might not have played active cricket for four years but he is one of the 21 names to attract the highest reserve price of US$400,000 ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) players' auction, to be held in Bangalore on January 8 and 9.
Alongside Lara, in the same bracket, are the former Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, the Indian trio of Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and IPL first-timers Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Graeme Swann, Michael Yardy and Luke Wright, all part of England's 2010 World Twenty20 winning side.
Brett Lee, Shaun Marsh and Mahela Jayawardene, who have all been released by Kings XI Punjab, will also enter the auction at the highest base price. They will be joined by other prominent IPL names such as Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Graeme Smith, AB de Villiers, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Chris Gayle.
Almost as interesting as the names who have made it to the auction list of 416, are the players who haven't. The most notable absentees--in addition to Pakistan's cricketers, who continue to get the IPL cold shoulder--are some of Australia's biggest current players: Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson. Andrew Flintoff, who became the most expensive buy in the IPL when Chennai Super Kings signed him for US$1.55 million ahead of the second season, has been left out too. Also missing from the 2011 pool is the retired Australian pair of Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath, who played in the previous editions of the IPL after ending their careers.
Jacques Kallis and Muttiah Muralitharan, who featured significantly for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai in the first three seasons, find themselves in the US$300,000 bracket. Zaheer Khan and Yusuf Pathan are the big Indian names in that list, which also includes Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Kumar Sangakkara, and Angelo Mathews.
Sourav Ganguly, who was Kolkata Knight Riders' "icon" in the first three seasons, has been relegated to the third band of players whose base price is US$200,000. Gautam Gambhir, who led Delhi in 2010, and the Australian pair of Michael Hussey and Doug Bollinger, who played crucial roles in Chennai's victorious IPL and Champions League campaigns in 2010, are also in that bracket, along with Dirk Nannes, Eoin Morgan, Robin Uthappa and Sanath Jayasuriya.
Eighty-seven players are at the next level--a base price of US$100,000--the biggest names being Tamim Iqbal, R Ashwin, Morne Morkel and Ben Hilfenhaus.
Previous IPL auctions have shown that base prices are not indicative of the final amount for which the franchise will buy the player. For example, at the first auction in 2008, Ishant Sharma was listed at US$150,000 but was bought by Kolkata at US$950,000, while Hayden was listed at US$250,000 and was bought by Chennai at US$375,000.
"With the requirement of each franchise minimal, virtually more than half of these players in the auction list will not attract any attention," an IPL official said.
Only 12 players were retained by their teams ahead of the auction, with three of the eight existing franchises--Punjab, Deccan Chargers and Kolkata--choosing to release all their players into the auction pool. As a result, those three franchises will have the entire complement of US$9 million at their disposal for the auction, while the other teams will begin the auctions with purses reduced in accordance to the number of players they retained.
Chennai and Mumbai, who retained the maximum allowed four players each, will go into the auction with only US$4.5 million to spend.
The season is set to go ahead with ten teams and 74 matches as originally planned, since the Indian Cricket Board of Control (BCCI) is not likely to move the Supreme Court after it lost High Court appeals against the stay orders granted to the termination of Punjab and Rajasthan.
The auction plan sets at rest speculation that the auction would be delayed by the various court cases the IPL is currently fighting. —Cricinfo