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IPL keeper-batter watch: Kishan, de Kock, Bairstow and more

Expect these six players to trigger fierce bidding wars on February 12 and 13

Gaurav Sundararaman and Nagraj Gollapudi
Wicketkeepers in T20 are judged more on their secondary skill - batting - than their primary skill. A keeper who can bat in the top four is gold dust in the IPL. If he is Indian he is even more valuable. Those who fit this bill are always in huge demand, especially since there have been many instances of an out-of-form or unavailable overseas keeper affecting the team balance. That's why MS Dhoni, KL Rahul, Sanju Samson, Jos Buttler and Rishabh Pant have all been retained by their franchises, and why these half-a-dozen players could go for big money at the auction.
Power hitter, 10-year player, smashes spin, and can bat anywhere. Don't be surprised if Kishan, at 23, ends up as one of the most expensive buys of the auction. In IPL 2020, Kishan hit an astounding 30 sixes, the most in that edition. Having been signed in 2018 by Mumbai Indians for INR 6.4 crore, Kishan provided a left-hand option in the Mumbai top order. Last year, he made his international debut, and, although Mumbai did not retain him, Kishan, who is from the eastern state of Jharkhand, has been confident about doing well at the auction and is understood to have even declined offers from the two new franchise - Lucknow Super Giants and Ahmedabad.
Previous franchises: Gujarat Lions (2017), Mumbai Indians (2018-21)
Potential destinations: Punjab Kings, Ahmedabad, Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Lucknow Super Giants.
He has been one of the most impactful batters in the last three IPLs. After the 2018 season, Mumbai were desperate for an overseas opener and a quality wicketkeeper so they traded in de Kock from Royal Challengers Bangalore for INR 2.8 crore. It would prove to be a smart investment considering the left-hander emerged as Mumbai's top run-getter in 2019 and second-highest in 2020. de Kock scored over 500 runs in back-to-back seasons, an uncommon feat in the IPL, and played a massive hand in Mumbai winning back-to-back trophies. During his three-season stay with Mumbai, de Kock amassed 1329 runs, which was most for his team in that period, and the sixth-highest overall in the IPL. de Kock is probably the world's best wicketkeeper in white-ball cricket and has captained South Africa, and his ability to accelerate against both fast bowlers and spinners makes him particularly dangerous. Having retired from Test cricket, de Kock will be fresh and is likely to remain available for the whole season.
Previous franchises: Sunrisers Hyderabad (2013), Delhi Daredevils (2014-17), Royal Challengers Bangalore (2018), Mumbai Indians (2019-21)
Potential destinations: Punjab Kings, Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Royal Challengers Bangalore
Proven performer, former IPL captain at a title-winning franchise, and a successful finisher over the last few seasons, Karthik has always been a big buy at IPL auctions. He was sold for INR 12.5 crores in 2014, INR 10.5 crores a year later and INR 7.4 crores in 2018. While he can bat at any position, he has walked in mostly as a finisher over the past few seasons at Kolkata Knight Riders. Since IPL 2018, in the death overs (overs 17-20) Karthik's strike rate is 184.01 - among Indians with at least 200 runs in that phase, only Virat Kohli, Rahul, Pant, Hardik Pandya, Samson and Dhoni have scored faster and all of them have been retained. Experience in dealing with pressure situations, reading the match from behind the wickets and leadership remain the key drivers that will once again make Karthik a potential big buy. He might be 36, but as Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo have proven already, that can be an asset.
Previous franchises: Delhi Daredevils (2008 and 2014), Kings XI Punjab (2009-11), Mumbai Indians (2012-13), Royal Challengers Bangalore (2015), Gujarat Lions (2016-17), Kolkata Knight Riders (2018-21)
Potential destinations: Punjab Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Lucknow Super Giants, Ahmedabad
He stands out as one of the few overseas batters who has been consistent over multiple IPL seasons. Sunrisers Hyderabad picked him at the 2019 auction for INR 2.2 crores and he repaid that faith by forging an exceptional opening partnership with David Warner. He has scored 1038 runs at an average of 41.52 and a strike rate of 142.19 in three seasons with Sunrisers. Bairstow is also that rare overseas batter who is comfortable against both pace and spin. One of the most athletic fielders in world cricket, he could even shed the gloves and get his name on the team sheet purely as as a batter.
Previous franchises: Sunrisers Hyderabad (2019-21)
Potential destinations: Ahmedabad, Punjab Kings, Mumbai Indians, Lucknow Super Giants, Kolkata Knight Riders
Watching him can be both exhilarating and frustrating. In all T20s since 2019, Pooran has hit 198 sixes, the third-most by any batter in this period. This includes the 2020 IPL, when Pooran hit 25 sixes, the most by an overseas batter. Also, since 2019, Pooran's IPL strike rate has been 154.98, the fourth-highest with a cut-off of 500 runs. Not only does he stand out as a power-hitter, Pooran can also float between the top and the middle order. At 26, he has a long road of ahead of him, and having been West indies vice-captain in white-ball cricket, franchises will look at him as a leadership option too.
Previous franchises: Mumbai Indians (2017), Punjab Kings (2018-21)
Potential destinations: Mumbai Indians, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kolkata Knight Riders, Ahmedabad
The moment he lofted Avesh Khan high over the long-on boundary to seal a last-ball victory for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Delhi Capitals last year, he would have known it was going to be a turning point in his career. Batting at No. 3 Bharat stunned Capitals with a knock Royal Challengers' then captain Virat Kohli termed "incredible." An opener for the first half of his T20 career, Bharat has since espoused the belief that where he bats does not matter to him. In the Vijay Hazare Trophy last December, he became only the second Indian batter after Prithvi Shaw to hit consecutive 150-plus scores in 50-overs cricket. Bharat, at 28, is also an attractive option because franchises always fancy an Indian keeper-batter to an overseas option as it helps them with team balance.
Previous franchises: Delhi Daredevils (2015), Royal Challengers Bangalore (2021)
Potential destinations: Royal Challengers Bangalore, Punjab Kings, Sunrisers Hyderabad
Stats input by Sampath Bandarupalli

Gaurav Sundararaman is senior stats analyst and Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo