There are 50 hopefuls, but only 17 will be smiling come Friday evening. Six Pakistanis - Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Shoaib Akhtar, Shahid Afridi, Salman Butt and Mohammed Hafeez - already have a reason to feel aggrieved, after their franchises opted to terminate their contracts. With players from across the border being denied permission to play in the IPL, four other contracts - Umar Gul, (Kolkata), Misbah-ul-Haq (Bangalore), Kamran Akmal and Sohail Tanvir (Rajasthan) - have been "suspended", with the affected teams allowed to sign replacements outside of the auction.
Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, set the stage for the auction at the Fort Aguada resort, and also spoke of the possibility of games eventually being staged outside the franchise's home city, in imitation of America's National Football League and Major League Baseball.
There were 43 names on the list, but with the Pakistan players unavailable, the franchisees got together and extended the wish-list to 51. With Michael Clarke pulling out, the number is now an even 50. Australia has the greatest representation, with 18 players, though no dates are yet available for how long the national team members - with games against South Africa and Pakistan pencilled in - will be able to play the second season.
"A player can pull out only if he is injured or has an FTP [Future Tours Programme] commitment," Modi said. "Regarding the Pakistan players, franchisees have the option of either terminating their contract or suspending it. If they terminate the contract, the player becomes a free agent and the team gets a slot [in the auction]."
The Kolkata Knight Riders' well-documented problems with the Cricket Association of Bengal may also result in some or all of their games being staged at another venue in the catchment area, possibly Cuttack. The Rajasthan Royals have also expressed an interest in playing some of their games in Ahmedabad, though it remains to be seen if either move will happen this season.
The eventual plan is to extend the concept beyond the national border too. "We are also trying to expand the catchment territory to the neighbouring countries, subject to approval from other boards," Modi said. "For instance, the Knight Riders can have some matches in Bangladesh, the Chennai Super Kings in Sri Lanka and the King's XI Punjab in Pakistan. Whether it's possible or not is a million-dollar question but this is our long-term plan to expand the base."
Indian Premier League