On December 19, the eight IPL franchises will once again bid for players to fill gaps in their squads. Who will attract the biggest bids? Who may not get a bid at all? Which young player will emerge with a big paycheck? ESPNcricinfo asked four keen IPL observers to make their predictions.
Who will be the biggest earner at this auction?
Gaurav Sundararaman: There will be a close battle between Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell and Chris Morris for the second-highest price. But the highest, I think, will be Sheldon Cottrell since teams may want to try something new, and what differentiates Cottrell is that he is a left-arm pacer.
Deivarayan Muthu: In an alternate universe, it would have been Mitchell Starc. In this universe, it could well be his Australia team-mate, Cummins. That his name will come up in the top ten on the list during the auction also works in his favour.
Sreshth Shah: Tom Banton, the England top-order batsman, hands down. He's already replaced Brendon McCullum at Brisbane Heat in the BBL. With at least four teams seeking an overseas opener, expect him to break the bank. Cottrell would be hot property too.
Varun Shetty: Can't look beyond Cummins here - arguably the best fast bowler in the world, who has done it across formats, and comfortably a class above anyone else in this auction. But look out for the hipsters at the auction tables who may want to spend on someone who offers "more", like a Chris Morris or Fabian Allen.
Which top-drawer player will go unsold?
Muthu: I wonder why Angelo Mathews listed his base price at INR 2 crore and Kyle Abbott at INR 1.5 crore. Both will go unsold. Martin Guptill, among the top scorers in T20I cricket, and fellow New Zealand opener Colin Munro are both heavily reliant on conditions and might not find any takers either.
Shah: Andrew Tye. He won the purple cap in 2018, but his stocks have plummeted since then. Batsmen are more comfortable playing his change-ups, and his knuckleballs have lost their potency.
Sundararaman: Mathews. He has not been a regular T20 player for a while now due to injuries and has never really done well in the shortest format.
Shetty: Mathews has been fitter over the last year than during any other recent auction, but it will be a surprise if a team shells out INR 2 crore for him.
Which uncapped Indian star do you think may get a big pay day?
Muthu: R Sai Kishore, the 23-year old Tamil Nadu left-arm fingerspinner, who was the top wicket-taker in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament. He might not quite hit pay dirt, but expect him to go for good money. In the IPL 2019 auction, my college senior Varun Chakaravarthy raked in big money (and then disappeared). This auction could be my college junior Sai Kishore's turn. Okay, don't ask me what I'm doing with my life.
Shetty: I expect Yashasvi Jaiswal to rake in a few crores at the auction. He has a lot of desirable qualities - big hitting, youth, and now popularity after his double-hundred in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Karnataka batsman Rohan Kadam could draw bank too, as could Rajasthan's legspinning allrounder Ravi Bishnoi. Tamil Nadu batting allrounder Shahrukh Khan has been destined for a big paycheck from the moment he was named.
Sundararaman: Virat Singh, the quick-scoring left-hander from Jharkhand, or Priyam Garg, the India Under-19 captain and batting prodigy. Teams might want to look at these two players before the big auction next year to see what they offer.
Shah: Can't look beyond Jaiswal, the 17-year-old batsman who plays U-19 cricket for India. In October 2019, he became the youngest man to hit a List-A double hundred. In 13 List-A matches so far, he's scored 779 runs at an average of 70.81 at a strike rate of 91.
Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore have significant purses. What is the role most important to fill for each team?
Sundararaman: KKR and Kings XI may go heavily for Eoin Morgan. Both could look at him as a possible captain. With Brendon Mccullum the coach of KKR, don't be surprised if that happens. Kings XI need good left-arm overseas quicks - Cottrell is the man - while RCB too need at least two overseas quicks as well as allrounders, so they could bid for Cummins and Maxwell.
Muthu: RCB will be looking for a power-hitter and a reliable death bowler. They could buy back Shimron Hetmyer and they may break the bank for Cottrell. Kings XI are searching for a captain and might bid aggressively for Morgan or Aaron Finch. They also need a big-hitting allrounder, as do KKR. Like West Indies, KKR will be sweating over Andre Russell's fitness, so they may look at another West Indies allrounder in Allen.
Shah: Kings XI - and, perhaps Knight Riders too - will be seeking an overseas captain, which makes Aaron Finch and Morgan attractive targets. Finch could be the ideal replacement for Lynn at Knight Riders too. Royal Challengers Bangalore need reliable pace bowlers, especially at the death. Expect them to big bid for Cottrell, Cummins or even Chris Jordan.
Shetty: The priority for all three teams will be fast bowlers. In addition, Kings XI will look for a captain, while KKR may go hard for a top-order batsman - Jason Roy, Banton and Lynn, whom they released earlier - are all options. RCB will likely use Shivam Dube a lot more this year, but a steady head in the middle order will be vital. They are lucky to have Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini together in the form of their lives, but an overseas fast bowler will truly complete that line-up. (RCB can then shower the remaining purse on their fans as a loyalty bonus.)
If you were at an auction table, which player would you identify as the best chance of a bargain buy?
Shetty: At INR 20 lakh (his base price), Chris Green is a steal. The Australian offspinner is a key member of several T20 teams around the world, including Sydney Thunder, Birmingham Bears and Guyana Amazon Warriors. Overseas spinners find it hard to break into IPL teams, but in this day of micro analysis, there might be some teams excited by his remarkable T20 economy rate: 6.69.
Muthu: Noor Ahmad, the Afghanistan left-arm wristspinner, is merely 14, and is believed to have attended trials with Rajasthan Royals. He was recently among the wickets for Afghanistan Under-19 in Lucknow and was also among the top wicket-takers in the Shpageeza league earlier this year. Bowlers with weird actions are always difficult to get away in T20 leagues, and at a base price of INR 30 lakh, Noor could be a decent investment leading into the mega auction next year and perhaps even beyond.
Shah: In Asian conditions, Mushfiqur Rahim is a handy option as a keeper-batsman. He can pace his innings well, has got the experience, and has shown in the recent past that he no longer cracks under pressure.
Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior data analyst at ESPNcricinfo; Deivarayan Muthu, Sreshth Shah, Varun Shetty are sub-editors