The 2021 IPL player auction will be held on February 18 in Chennai, the league announced with a tweet on Wednesday. The announcement comes after the IPL Governing Council meeting on January 6, where it was decided that the 2021 edition of the tournament would remain an eight-team event.
With the second Test of the India-England series scheduled to end on February 17 - the first two Tests are in Chennai and the last two in Ahmedabad - February 18 presents the organisers with a day-long window to conduct the auction. The eight franchises had announced their list of retained and released players by the deadline of January 20.
It is, however, not yet certain if the tournament would be held in India. The three-member Governing Council, headed by Brijesh Patel, deliberated on the matter in that meeting at the start of the year, and kept their options open. With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to surge in India, it is understood that the UAE, where the 2020 edition was held, remained as one of the options.
With the pandemic throwing up challenges on a regular basis, the IPL Governing Council has remained uncertain about whether to conduct matches on a home-and-away basis, which would mean having a minimum of eight venues. The other alternative, which was also discussed last year before moving the tournament to the UAE, was to organise the tournament at a limited number of venues, which would reduce travel for teams. India's national T20 competition, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, is currently being held based on this system.
The February auction will be the first one in which teams do not have any additional funds, which means they have had to release a host of big names to increase their purses and free up their rosters. The biggest of those names is Steven Smith, captain of the Rajasthan Royals last season, who was released by the franchise. Smith will join the likes of Glenn Maxwell (formerly of the Kings XI Punjab), Chris Morris and Umesh Yadav (both the Royal Challengers Bangalore), Kedar Jadhav (the Chennai Super Kings), Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson (both the Mumbai Indians), Tom Banton (the Kolkata Knight Riders), and Jason Roy (the Delhi Capitals), who are some of the other high-profile names to be released into the auction pool.
Teams are allowed a maximum of 25 players on their rosters: the Royal Challengers (13), the Kings XI (9), the Rajasthan Royals (8) and the Knight Riders (8) are the teams with the highest number of slots to fill as things stand, while the Sunrisers Hyderabad (3) have the most complete roster at the moment.