A day before the IPL franchises release the names of the players they have retained, we try to work out who those cricketers could be, based on the buzz from the teams and previous retention and auction trends.
From the time Shane Warne took his band of no-namers to the title in the inaugural season, Rajasthan Royals have been known as a small team that has to outwit sides with more financial muscle. They rarely use up their entire auction money, betting instead to focus on budget buys.
While retaining players takes a big chunk out of the auction purse - Rs 12.5 crores for the first Rs pick, Rs 9.5 crores for the next, and so on - the players retained are not paid that amount. They can be paid more - for eg, MS Dhoni could be offered a contract of, say, Rs 20 crore - or less. Perhaps Royals are hoping to pay less than what they lose from the purse, as they are looking to retain many players.
Among the names doing the rounds are Shane Watson, Man of the Series in 2013, opener Ajinkya Rahane, who hit four successive half-centuries to finish the Champions League last year, Australia allrounder James Faulkner, who made a big splash last season with his death bowling and big hitting, and Kerala teenager Sanju Samson, who showed immense composure even in the finals of the Champions League. Allrounder Stuart Binny also has an outside chance of being retained.
Our picks: Shane Watson, Ajinkya Rahane, James Faulkner, Sanju Samson, Stuart Binny
Kolkata Knight Riders
In 2011, Kolkata Knight Riders decided to rebuild their team from scratch, deciding against holding on to any of their players. They bet big on Gautam Gambhir as the man to build their team around, and it paid off as they won the title in 2012, bringing Kolkata to a standstill with massive celebrations.
Knight Riders have shown their shrewdness in auctions by bidding huge money in 2012 on little-known Sunil Narine, who promptly produced a Man-of-the-Series performance in their run to the title. Gambhir and Narine are the players Knight Riders are considering retaining.
The 2013 season was a disappointment for the team, though, as they finished seventh, a long way off the pace. Similarly disappointing was the form of Yusuf Pathan, who couldn't produce the performances expected from one of the team's highest earners. Another key player has been allrounder Jacques Kallis, though at 38, age will hurt his chances.
Our picks: Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine
Despite dominating the league phase in several seasons, the title continues to elude Delhi Daredevils. A team that experiences big highs and big lows, the 2013 season was perhaps their worst, as they could collect only six points, even fewer than the now disbanded Pune Warriors managed.
Like Daredevils, the team's iconic player Virender Sehwag has had a horrendous 2013, losing his place in the Indian team in all formats, and struggling to score on the domestic circuit. Never the fittest of players, Sehwag is now 35, and Daredevils could consider someone younger to be the face of the franchise.
They have plenty of big-name overseas players, and talks are said to be on with David Warner and Kevin Pietersen, though it is unclear whether an understanding has been reached. They have others like Mahela Jayawardene and Morne Morkel, but Daredevils are unlikely to retain them.
Our picks: David Warner, Kevin Pietersen (in talks)
With inputs from Nagraj Gollapudi and Amol Karhadkar