Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, the current Australian Test captain and his predecessor, have attracted the highest base price of $400,000 each ahead of the IPL player auction, which will be held on February 3 in Chennai. The Australian duo form part of the 101-strong list comprising players from eight countries, which was finalised by the IPL on Wednesday and distributed to the nine franchises.
In addition to a host of lesser-known players mainly from Australia and South Africa - the breeding ground of Twenty20 cricket - the list includes seven Indians, two Englishmen and Kevin O'Brien, the Ireland allrounder who is the lone representative from the Associates. The list once again does not feature Pakistani players.
Though Clarke has not played for Australia in Twenty20s since he retired from the format a couple of years ago, he was signed by the Pune Warriors last year outside of the auction. Now released by the franchise, Clarke is expected to be one of the few marquee names to go under the hammer. What stands in his favour are his successful leadership abilities along with a strong batting form last year.
In comparison, the 38-year-old Ponting, who retired from all forms of international cricket last November, may not sell as an equally-hot entity. Ponting made his IPL debut in 2008 with the Kolkata Knight Riders, but in 2010 the franchise bought out his contract.
Darren Sammy, who led West Indies to the World Twenty20 crown last year, tops the list of first-timers with a base price of $100,000, and is part of the allrounders set. Ravi Bopara, the England allrounder, also has a list price of $100,000, the same as last season when he remained unsold. Another England player who was ignored last year, but has once again put his hat in the ring, is Matt Prior ($200,000); he is also one of the wicketkeepers available.
RP Singh and Abhishek Nayar top the list of players whose fortunes crashed badly last season. Singh, who was bought by Mumbai Indians in 2012 for $600,000, was released by the franchise after a lukewarm performance where he bagged 10 wickets from 11 matches and thereafter has failed to impress in the domestic cricket.
Nayar hit prolific form during Mumbai's victorious Ranji Trophy season this year to finish as the second-highest run-scorer in the tournament. He was bought by Kings XI Punjab in the 2011 auction for $800,000 but the franchise opted to release him after a dismal 2012 edition. Nayar has now entered the auction with a reserve price of $100,000.
Among the overseas players, Johan Botha is back in the auction at a list price of $300,000 after being released by Rajasthan Royals. They had paid an eyebrow-raising $950,000 during the 2011 player auction to bag Botha, a move that seemed puzzling considering Shane Warne was still the leading spinner for the inaugural IPL champions. Last year Botha fetched a poor return, bagging just nine wickets and scoring 58 runs in the eleven games he played.
This time around the majority of the franchises have predicted a low-key auction, reasoning that they had most bases covered during the previous two auctions. "Apart from filling in certain small gaps, I do not see any big action happening this time around. Also with the player contracts expiring after the 2013 season, it would be difficult to place your bets on any big buys," a franchise official told ESPNcricinfo.
Even the trading window, which opened on November 19, attracted scant attention from the franchises with one formal trade registered: T Suman, who played for Mumbai Indians in 2012, shifting to neighbouring Pune Warriors. The second trading window will be open from February 4 to 15. Each franchise has a salary cap of up to $12.5m to spend on their 2013 squad, which can contain a maximum of 33 players, including 11 from overseas.
Click here for the full list of players and reserve prices.