Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
The IPL will allow a franchise to seek a replacement Ben Stokes in the event that the England allrounder is not available for the entire 2018 tournament due to the legal proceedings concerning the charge of affray against him.
However, should he miss only part of the tournament, no replacement would be sanctioned.
Stokes is expected to appear in Bristol Magistrates' Court on February 13 to answer the charge of affray, which was levelled against him by the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) earlier this week.
Affray, depending on the circumstances, can be prosecuted at either Magistrates Court or Crown Court. At a Crown Court, the maximum sentence is three years imprisonment, but if tried in a Magistrates Court it is only six months. Stokes was arrested in September by the police after a dead-of-night incident outside a nightclub in Bristol.
Apart from some domestic cricket for Canterbury in New Zealand in December, Stokes has not featured in any competitive cricket since his arrest on September 25, missing the entire Ashes series as the ECB awaited the outcome of police investigations. Nonetheless, his IPL value does not seem to have diminished.
The IPL announced the final auction pool of 578 players on Saturday and Stokes' name featured among the 16 marquee players who will kick off the two-day mega auction on January 27 and 28 in Bangalore.
Stokes was one of the 36 players to list the highest base price of INR 2 crore (USD 315,000 approx) when the IPL released the longlist earlier this month.
Last season, Stokes started his maiden IPL as the most expensive overseas buy in the tournament's history when he was signed by Rising Pune Supergiant for INR 14.5 crore (USD 2.16 million approx). He finished as the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Although he missed the final because he had to report back for England duty, he overshadowed IPL heavyweights in his team such as MS Dhoni to help Pune reach the final. Stokes scored 316 runs at a strike rate of 142.98, including an unbeaten century while chasing down 162 against Gujarat Lions. He also picked up 12 wickets with an economy rate of 7.18 in the 12 matches he played.
Various IPL franchises told ESPNcricinfo that Stokes would once again be among the most attractive buys, but said they would need clarity on his availability. Their main question was whether the IPL would allow a replacement in case they paid big money to buy Stokes and he had to return to England due to the court case.
On Saturday the IPL clarified its position. In a note to the eight franchises, the IPL said the ECB had granted the player a No Objection Certificate. The ECB, the franchises were informed, would consider any disciplinary action against Stokes once the court had delivered its verdict.
"The ECB have confirmed they will issue an NOC for Ben Stokes and advised that the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) will wait for the conclusion of all criminal proceedings relating to the charge against Ben before it runs its independent process," the IPL advisory said.
According to the IPL Stokes' legal team had "advised" the ECB that the court case would not hamper his participation.
"Ben's legal advisors have advised that they think it highly unlikely that the criminal proceedings will conclude before the end of IPL 2018," the IPL told the franchises. "They have advised that they do not expect the criminal proceedings will have any impact on Ben's availability for IPL 2018.
"Due to the uncertainty regarding court dates and therefore his availability for the IPL 2018 season, BCCI confirms that if he is completely unavailable in advance of the season he may be replaced under section 6.1 (e) of the 2018-20 IPL Player Regulations."
However, if Stokes were to be available even partially, the IPL told the franchises that no replacement could be sought. "In the event of his partial unavailability due to the court process then he may not be replaced. Player replacements for partial unavailability during the IPL Season are only allowed in relation to player injuries as prescribed by section 6.1 of the 2018-20 IPL Player Regulations."
With additional reporting by Gaurav Sundararaman