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Stokes to Green - six players who could fetch big money at the IPL auction

Will Sam Curran break the record for the biggest IPL bid ever?

Nagraj Gollapudi
Some of the most expensive players in the IPL have historically been bought at mini auctions. In 2021, Chris Morris became the most expensive player when Rajasthan Royals bought him for INR 16.25 crore (then approx. US$ 2.2 million), which was INR 25 lakh more than Delhi Daredevils' winning bid for Yuvraj Singh in 2015. In 2020, Kolkata Knight Riders bought Pat Cummins for INR 15.50 crore while Ben Stokes' first IPL paycheque was worth INR 14.50 crore from Rising Pune Supergiants in 2017.
The 2023 auction is also not a mega one. Here, ESPNcricinfo looks at half a dozen names that could be among the most expensive buys in Kochi on December 23.
Sam Curran
Set 2 - Allrounders. Base Price: INR 2 crore
Don't be surprised if Curran breaks the all-time record for the most expensive buy at an IPL auction. Why? Because he is an investment that will give you returns with robust dividends for several years. Curran has proved he can create an impact with either ball or bat, and has done that at the highest level: he was Player of the Tournament as well as the Player of the Match in the final, leading England to triumph in the T20 World Cup in Australia recently. And he is only 24.
Curran became an IPL millionaire when Punjab Kings bought him for INR 7.2 crore in 2019. But he was released after just one season, which allowed Chennai Super Kings to pick him ahead of the 2020 IPL. A year later, in 2021, Curran wore the IPL winner's medal with Super Kings, but missed the 2022 season as he recovered from a back surgery. Since September this year, Curran has taken 25 wickets in 14 T20s at an economy rate of 7.08, including 13 wickets in six matches at 6.52 at the T20 World Cup. He has also improved his batting against spin: in 31 T20 innings since 2020, he has an average of 27.07 and a strike rate of 154.69. He was also promoted in the batting order in the T20 Blast and Hundred to counter the legspinners and the left-arm spinners.
Curran will be part of the second set of players to come up for bidding. Both Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings, who have big purses, will fancy having Curran in their ranks, but there are several other franchises who can afford to go big too.
IPL record: 32 wickets from 32 matches, economy rate of 9.21. With the bat, he has scored 337 runs with a 149.77 strike rate, including two fifties.
Last IPL: For Super Kings in 2021, Curran took nine wickets from as many matches at an economy rate of 9.93.
Ben Stokes
Set 2: Allrounders. Base Price: INR 2 crore
A proven captain. Clarity under pressure. Match-winning allrounder. Supreme fielder. Mentor. Brand. Any or all of these could be Stokes' calling card. And several teams would want him on their roster. Well before he put his name on the auction list, rumours in the IPL circuit were that Lucknow Super Giants would be going all out to buy him. Sanjeev Goenka, their owner, is a big fan of Stokes and had paid him more than a million dollars in 2017, when Stokes made his IPL debut for Rising Pune Supergiants, also owned by the same group. The Lucknow franchise has INR 23.35 crore to spend and have released Jason Holder, so they will be looking for a replacement. But there will be other teams, too, who could go big solely on Stokes for the balance and impact the England Test captain can create.
Stokes last played in the IPL in the 2021 season for Royals, but his campaign was curtailed to one match because of a finger injury. Royals played him as an opener in 2020, which proved successful for him personally as he struck a century and a fifty in the eight matches he played, scoring 285 runs at 40.71 and a strike rate of 142.50. During the recent T20 World Cup, Stokes played a key role in the final against Pakistan, where he remained undefeated while hitting his maiden T20I half-century.
IPL record: 920 runs in 43 matches, strike rate 134.50, two centuries and two fifties. With the ball, he has 28 wickets at an 8.55 economy rate.
Last IPL: Was at Rajasthan Royals in 2021 when he was ruled out after playing only one match.
Nicholas Pooran
Set 3: Wicketkeeper-batter. Base Price: INR 2 crore
At the mega auction in 2022, Sunrisers overcame fierce competition from Super Kings and Knight Riders to bag Pooran for INR 10.75 crore. Pooran scored 306 runs including two fifties at an average of 38.25 and a good strike rate of 144.33 in that season. While he might have been surprised by Sunrisers' move to release him, he would be confident about attracting another decent bid considering his power-hitting ability which was on display at the recent Abu Dhabi T10. Pooran not only won the Player-of-the-Tournament award for his 345 runs, which came at a 49.28 average along with a phenomenal strike rate of 234.69 including three fifties, he also led Deccan Gladiators to the tittle.
Pooran's recent T20 form, however, has been abysmal: since August, he has scored 216 runs in 20 innings, averaging 10.80 and striking at 114.28, which led to him stepping down as the West Indies white-ball captain after the T20 World Cup. Still, Pooran is one of most dreaded power-hitters with his ability to dominate all types of bowling.
In the IPL, his strike rate against spin is 152.20 from 31 innings at an average of 42.11. Against pace in 39 IPL innings, Pooran has scored 533 runs at an average of 22.20 but a strike rate of 151.42.
All three teams that bid hard for him in 2022 once again need a wicketkeeper-batter.
IPL record: 912 runs in 47 matches at 26.05 average, 151.24 strike rate, four fifties.
Last IPL: Playing for Sunrisers in 2022, Pooran scored 306 runs at a 38.25 average, 144.33 strike rate, with two fifties.
Harry Brook
Set 1: Batters. Base price INR 1.5 crore
When Stokes says he can see a bit of Virat Kohli in Harry Brook, there must be something special about the 23-year-old batter. And the special thing could be his clean power-hitting. In his first international overseas trip, the seven-match T20I series in Pakistan in August, Brook was more than an emerging talent - he won the Player-of-the-Series award after hitting 238 runs at a strike rate of 163.01.
On his return trip to Pakistan immediately after a lean T20 World Cup, Brook again showed his ability with power-packed centuries in each of the first two Tests, and won the Player-of-the-Match award in Multan. His T20 numbers in Asia are pretty impressive - 581 runs in 16 innings, an average of 64.55 and strike rate of 167.43 with one century and one fifty. Tall and well-built, Brook can play both in the middle order as well as a finisher. While he remains a work-in-progress against spin, Brook can dominate fast bowlers with natural ease, especially in the death overs. Franchises want to invest in future talent and Brook could be a good bet.
Mayank Agarwal
Set 1: Batter. Base Price: INR 1 crore
Since 2020, Agarwal has the third-best strike rate for an opening batter in the IPL, only behind Prithvi Shaw and Jos Buttler (minimum ten matches as opener). Agarwal has struck at 144.50 in 31 games, scoring 1026 runs at 34.20 with a century. He is not far behind Shaw (151.60) and Buttler (149.82). Across the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Agarwal scored 865 runs in 23 innings, striking at nearly 148, while his then opening partner and Kings captain KL Rahul, who finished as the leading scorer in both seasons, scored 1296 runs in 27 innings, striking at 133.74. In that two-year period, as per ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, Agarwal's batting rating was 45.16 while Rahul's was 43.21.
Sunrisers, Kings, Gujarat Titans, Super Kings and Knight Riders all need a specialist opener or a top-order batter, which puts Agarwal in a good place to fetch a decent price. His price tag is unlikely to climb to the INR 12-crore mark Kings paid him in 2022, but his body of work over the past few years has the potential to offset his drastic dip in form since the last IPL, including in domestic cricket. Agarwal might have lost the captaincy in the process, but this week he spoke about going back to his old routines to reinvigorate his batting.
IPL record: 2327 runs in 113 matches, average 22.59, 134.27 strike rate, one century and 12 fifties
Last IPL: Playing for Kings in 2022, Agarwal scored 196 runs in 13 matches, with a 16.33 average and 122.50 strike rate, with one fifty.
Cameron Green
Set 2: Allrounders. Base Price: INR 2 crore
Australia found a way to get Cameron Green into their T20 World Cup squad after Josh Inglis' hand injury while playing golf. But Green had made a compelling case after his trip to India, just before that World Cup. Opening the batting in the three T20Is, Green scored 118 runs with two fifties at a strike rate of 214.54. IPL franchises took note immediately, especially those looking for batters who can float up and down the order, and would be keen to bid for the pace-bowling allrounder.
With stats inputs by Sampath Bandarupalli.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo