The IPL 2021 auction is set to take place on February 18. This will not be a mega auction, which means franchises will largely look to plug gaps, some larger than others. In this, the second of a two-part preview, we look at the requirements for the Mumbai Indians, the Rajasthan Royals, the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
With seven slots left and a small purse of INR 15.35 crore, defending champions Mumbai Indians must play their cards smartly at the auction table.
There are three gaps Mumbai would want to plug more than any other. First, get at least one, if not two, overseas fast bowlers. Having released James Pattinson and Nathan Coulter-Nile, Mumbai only have one overseas quick in Trent Boult. In addition, they could also look for a back-up allrounder for Kieron Pollard. Mumbai are also likely to be on the lookout for a back-up wristspinner to Rahul Chahar, who struggled in IPL 2020 and wasn't in the playing XI for the final.
First XI: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Quinton de Kock, 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Ishan Kishan, 5 Hardik Pandya, 6 Krunal Pandya, 7 Kieron Pollard, 8 Rahul Chahar, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 An overseas fast bowler.
Key gaps: At least one overseas fast bowler
Potential picks: Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith, Jason Behrendoff, Kyle Jamieson, Nathan-Coulter Nile, Arjun Tendulkar
Back-up wristspinner/fingerspinner Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, Khrievitso Kense
Back-up allrounder for Kieron Pollard: Nathan Coulter-Nile, Shivam Dube
Kumar Sangakkara, the new team director of the Royals, has his task cut out. The Royals, who last made the playoffs in 2018, would be on the lookout for one fast bowler, one specialist batsman, and one allrounder. The weak link for the Royals has been a good support cast for Jofra Archer as well as a middle-order batsman who can play the finisher's role. Both Steven Smith and Robin Uthappa struggled in those roles in IPL 2020. It will not be a surprise if the Royals buy back Smith cheap as experience always helps, but with a strong purse of over INR 34 crore, the franchise can't be shy about raising the paddle to top price if they believe a name is worth it.
Current first XI: 1 Sanju Samson, 2 Ben Stokes, 3 Jos Buttler, 4 David Miller, 5 Riyan Parag, 6 Rahul Tewatia, 7 Mahipal Lomror, 8 Jofra Archer, 9 Shreyas Gopal, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Kartik Tyagi
Key gaps: One fast bowler, one allrounder, one batsman
Potential picks: Steven Smith, Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, Alex Hales
Back-up allrounder: Shivam Dube, Glenn Maxwell, Chris Morris, Moeen Ali
Back-up overseas fast bowler: Naveen ul Haq, Jhye Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Kyle Jamieson
Royal Challengers Bangalore
The side led by Virat Kohli has an urgent need to fill up more than one vacant spot in the first XI. After releasing the likes of Chris Morris, Aaron Finch and Moeen Ali, the Royal Challengers' focus will be on finding batsmen and allrounders for their top and middle order. That has been a long-standing problem for the franchise, for which they have tried to find remedies over several seasons, usually without much success.
They will once again look for a solution to reduce the dependency on their two best batsmen: AB de Villiers and Kohli. With the second-highest purse in the 2021 auction (INR 35.9 crore), the Royal Challengers could target a few big names, including Glenn Maxwell and Shakib Al Hasan, in addition to finding an Indian batsman who can play the role of a finisher in the middle order. This should be a busy auction for the franchise.
Current first XI: 1 Devdutt Padikkal, 2 Josh Philippe, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Shahbaz Ahmed, 6 Washington Sundar, 7 Daniel Sams, 8 Navdeep Saini, 9 Mohammed Siraj, 10 Kane Richardson, 11 Yuzuvender Chahal.
Key gaps: Top order overseas batsman/batting allrounder
Potential picks: Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Shakib Al Hasan, Fabian Allen, Dawid Malan
Domestic batsman/allrounder: Shahrukh Khan, Kedhar Jadhav, K Gowtham
Along with the Kolkata Knight Riders, the Sunrisers have the smallest purse (INR 10.75 crore) in this auction. But they do not have too many gaps to fill. An overseas player is among three main vacancies. They can either look to replace Billy Stanlake, who can also act as a back-up for Jason Holder. One potential pick is likely to be buying back Shakib Al Hasan, who was with the franchise until he was banned by the ICC two years ago.
Current first XI: 1 David Warner, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Priyam Garg, 5 Vijay Shankar, 6 Jason Holder, 7 Abdul Samad, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Sandeep Sharma, 10 T Natarajan, 11 Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Key gap: Back-up overseas fast bowler
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo