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Feature

Who will be the most expensive player in the IPL 2022 auction?

Four capped Indians, one uncapped player, and some decorated overseas players are among the front-runners

Shreyas Iyer and Kagiso Rabada combined to run Ambati Rayudu out, Delhi Capitals vs Chennai Super Kings, IPL 2021 Qualifier 1, Dubai, October 10, 2021

Shreyas Iyer and Kagiso Rabada are likely to both go for big money at the IPL 2022 auctions  •  BCCI

Who will be the most expensive buy at the IPL mega auction? A question with multiple answers but no one choice is a certainty. This the fifth mega auction in IPL's history, the last one being in 2018, but there were only eight teams four years ago. Four players broke the INR 10-crore mark in the 2018 auction. This time, with 10 teams in the league, there could be more players breaching the 10-crore mark. ESPNcricinfo looks at a shortlist of players who could end up being the biggest buys.
Shreyas Iyer
Set 1 - Marquee players
Base price: INR 2 crore
Role: Batter
Age, batting talent, brand potential and success as a leader have made Shreyas Iyer such a compelling choice, that franchise officials believe he could end up being the most expensive buy at the auction. As a batter, Iyer has not done much since 2015, when he made his debut for Delhi Daredevils and finished as the Emerging Player of the IPL having scored the most runs - 437 - by a debutant (a record he held until 2018). Handed captaincy midway through IPL 2018, Iyer showed character and led the Capitals to two successive play-offs, including their first final (in 2020). But once the franchise had decided to retain Rishabh Pant as the captain last IPL, Iyer opted to head to the auction this time. IPL teams prefer an Indian player as a long-term captaincy option. Moreover, Iyer is also part of the bunch along with Pant and KL Rahul, who are looked at as future India captains. Royal Challengers Bangalore, Punjab Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders could be on the lookout for captains. Even the likes of Chennai Super Kings will look for a replacement for MS Dhoni, who is likely to be playing his final IPL this season. Don't be surprised if the Capitals, too, express interest as that would help them nearly retain the core from the past few seasons.
David Warner
Set 1 - Marquee players
Base price : INR 2 crore
Role: Opening Batter
Not many would have predicted David Warner to go under the hammer. Warner is an IPL legend. He is the most successful overseas player in the history of the league. Between seasons 2014 to 2020, Warner amassed 3819 runs at an average of 52.31 and strike rate of 144.98. Virat Kohli was next on the runs tally, with 3605 runs, but at a strike rate of 135.27. But the truly astonishing thing was that Warner achieved his tally despite missing out entirely on IPL 2018. He won the orange cap twice and led Sunrisers Hyderabad to the title in 2016. Warner's biggest strength in the IPL is his ability to play spin and his consistency. Warner has scored over 500 runs in six successive seasons he was part of, and sored them at a healthy strike rate and average. One bad IPL season in 2021 and a few off the field events changed his fortunes. However, Warner was back among the runs as he won the player of the tournament award in the T20 World Cup that took place immediately after IPL 2021. An overseas opener and a seasoned IPL player, Warner still has a lot to offer. There could be some teams who might not be keen on Warner in the set-up, but there will be more teams that do want him, and all of them will have to budget well to get him. Being an IPL-winning captain to boot, Warner could easily slip into the leadership group, if not the leading role itself.
Ishan Kishan
Set 4 - Wicketkeepers
Base price: INR 2 crore
Role: Wicketkeeper-batter
Scouts believe he hits the ball much harder than Pant. That he has a better base than Pant during his set-up. And like Pant, he is short, but recognised as one of the most dangerous powerhitters. He is just 23, but Ishan Kishan has a powerful CV as a wicketkeeper-batter. In IPL 2020, Kishan clubbed a record-breaking 30 sixes, which played a huge role in him ending up as Mumbai Indians' highest run-getter in their title run. Kishan had shown he was well worth the INR 6.2 crore Mumbai had paid him at the 2018 auction, nearly 35 times the price Gujarat Lions had bagged him for in IPL 2016, after he had emerged as a young talent having led India to the Under-19 World Cup final that year. In the last two IPLs, Kishan scored 757 runs for Mumbai with six fifties, averaging over 40 and striking over 140. Last IPL, he demolished the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling attack on the way to a 16-ball half-century, the fastest last edition as well as being quickest ever for Mumbai. Kishan's greatest success has come as an opener at Mumbai, but he showed he could bat in the middle order too, something he has also done in red-ball cricket for India A. As a power-hitting wicketkeeper-batter, Kishan is an allrounder that virtually every franchise would covet. Consequently, despite not featuring in the opening rounds of the auction, franchises are likely to dedicate a massive sum for him.
Deepak Chahar
Set 5 - Fast bowlers
Base price: INR 2 crore
Role: Fast bowling allrounder
Two of the best batting performances in ODI cricket in the last year come from the flashing blade of Deepak Chahar. Both heroic performances, one which ended in a win - against Sri Lanka - and the other nearly won India a match - against South Africa - showed that Chahar has added another string to his bow. He will be looked at as a bowling allrounder now. A Powerplay specialist with the ball at Chennai Super Kings, the franchise he played for since 2018, Chahar picked up 42 of his 58 wickets in the first six overs. That was 15 more than the next best, Trent Boult, in the last four IPL seasons (2018 to 2021). During this period, Chahar was also the leading wicket-taker for Super Kings, who won the IPL twice. Chahar can swing the ball early, and also has a killer knuckle ball which he is not shy to employ with the new ball. Historically, barring the record sum of INR 11.50 crore that Rajasthan Royals paid for Jaydev Unadkat in 2018, no Indian fast bowler has ever fetched an auction price above the 10-crore mark. Then again, there have been no proven Indian fast bowlers who showed they could win matches with the bat either, till Chahar came along.
Jason Holder
Set 3 - Allrounders
Base price: INR 1.5 crores
Role: Fast bowling allrounder
Jason Holder's stocks are rising, and rising rapidly. Chennai Super Kings (2013) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (2014) picked him very early in his career at low prices. Then in 2020, he went unsold and was picked up as a replacement for Mitchell Marsh by Sunrisers. Holder's IPL performances went to the next level, taking 30 wickets at an average of 16 and scoring 151 runs, often at crucial times. However, most of his wickets have come in the UAE, so the question of whether he can replicate that in India remains. His height allows him to extract bounce from a good length and his ability to play spin is a big strength. Not many players can give you four overs across phases and bat in the top six. Holder was the player of the series in the recently concluded T20Is against England, taking important wickets at the top of the order. Among the first 170 names in the auction roster, there are only nine overseas players who have listed themselves as pace bowling allrounders. Holder's competition are Pat Cummins, Dwayne Bravo, Mitchell Marsh, Dominic Drakes, Marco Jansen, Chris Jordan, Jimmy Neesham and Odean Smith. Marsh does not bowl and is injury prone, while Bravo is 37. With teams wanting to lock up their playing XI as soon as possible, one can expect some fierce bidding for Holder. He is also likely to cross the 10-crore mark.
Yuzvendra Chahal
Set 6 - Spinners
Base price: INR 2 crore
Role: Lead wristspinner
No bowler has more than the139 wickets Yuzvendra Chahal has taken in IPL since 2014, the year he joined Royal Challengers Bangalore. It is remarkable that Chahal has managed that despite playing a healthy proportion of his matches in the pocket-sized Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. Only Rashid Khan stands in front of Chahal in terms of consistency and impact as a wristspinner. Chahal might have lost the speed and confidence in the last couple of years, but recently he has shown his rhythm is back. While the Royal Challengers did not retain Chahal - unless the legspinner wanted to head to the auction - it would not be a surprise if the franchise bid for him keenly again. Virtually each of the 10 franchises will be on the lookout for a wristspinner, a category that does not have too many quality options, especially when it comes to Indian players. In 2018, Royal Challengers retained Chahal using the right-to-match card for INR 6 crore. Chahal has now shown the potential that he can become the first wristspinner to breach the 10-crore mark.
Shahrukh Khan
Set 8 - Uncapped allrounders
Base price: INR 40 lakhs
Role: Power-hitting finisher
Finishing a T20 innings is one of the hardest roles to play. Very few have had consisten success in that role. The likes of Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya are a few names that come to mind. On an average, batters at 6 and 7 get just 7-10 balls an innings. To create an impact in such a short time is hard. To fill that position with a specialist in a 10-team IPL becomes critical. With not many overseas finishers around, franchises might look for an Indian to play that role. That is where Shahrukh Khan's promise and performance becomes critical. At over 6'4" Shahrukh is a towering presence and is muscular like Pollard. Not many in Indian cricket can hit the ball as hard and far as Shahrukh, according to franchise scouts, who have witnessed his batting for Tamil Nadu in domestic white-ball cricket. His strike rate of 181 in the last two seasons of the 20-over Syed Mushtaq Ali is the fifth-best, and his strike rate of 139.62 in the last two seasons of the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy is the second-best after Suryakumar Yadav. He has also smashed 29 sixes in the Vijay Hazare over the last two seasons, the joint-highest with Venkatesh Iyer. All that prompted Punjab Kings to pay Shahrukh INR 5.25 crore in the 2021 auction. However, they couldn't find him a regular spot in the team. In the opportunities he has got in the IPL, he has scored 153 runs from 10 innings at a strike rate of 134.21. Indian cricket has been trying hard to find a back-up for Hardik as a finisher who can bowl, and Shahrukh's selection for the ongoing ODI leg of the West Indies series will come as a boost for the uncapped player on the eve of the auction.
Kagiso Rabada Set 1- Marquee players
Base price : INR 2 crore
Role: Fast bowler
Kagiso Rabada has taken the most wickets in the IPL in the last three seasons: 70 wickets at a strike rate of 14.4 and an economy of 8.13. When you look at the stats on the surface, it reads very well. However, when you dig a bit deeper, 45% of his wickets are of batters at six or below and he has conceded 55 sixes - the most by any bowler during this period. While Rabada is a wicket-taker, he could leak many runs as well. The gap between Rabada's best and worst is significant. But the reason Rabada features in this list is because he can generate 140-plus speeds consistently, not break sweat while bowling Super Overs, something he did more than once at his previous franchise Delhi Capitals, and is one of the fittest bowlers. A fast bowler who can bowl extreme pace and take wickets is one of the most sought-after commodities in the IPL. Multiple teams will be seeking a fast bowler on their first XI sheet, and that automatically means Rabada will gain traction considering he is also among the first 10 players in the auction.
With inputs from Sampath Bandarupalli

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo