File photo of RCB owner Siddharth Mallya and RR co-owner Shilpa Shetty at the 2011 IPL auction. (AFP Photo)
Even as the IPL faces another high-tide period with the menace of betting and fixing in the league appearing to turn from allegation into ground reality, Rs. 274.50 crore will be put on the table by its eight franchises at the 2014 players' auction beginning Wednesday.
The Justice Mukul Mudgal's probe report was tabled before the Supreme Court on Monday, and it created ripples in the IPL circles with revelations that the former Chennai Super Kings' (CSK) Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan was indeed involved in betting.
But the SC didn't put a barrier in front of the IPL auction, allowing it to go ahead on schedule in Bengaluru on February 12-13, which came as a relief to the 514 players in the auction pool at the two-day fanfare. But once again, players from neighbouring Pakistan have been overlooked.
None of the eight IPL franchises have more than five players in their squad going into the auction. The retention window allowed each team to retain a maximum of five players, which was exercised to the T by CSK, Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals - while Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad retained two players; Royal Challengers Bangalore three; and Delhi Daredevils none.
Thus, a complete makeover of most teams in store adds to the excitement when bidding starts on Wednesday with 16 marquee players who will have the base price of Rs. 2 crore each.
Among them will be India's Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag, for whom it will be a platform to revive their of late wobbly careers, though the former did get a fillip after being named in the World T20 squad.
Another couple of firsts at the auction will be the presence of uncapped players in the pool and bidding in Indian rupees instead of US dollars.
Among the hottest picks will be New Zealand allrounder Corey Anderson, who hit the fastest ODI hundred in 36 balls against the West Indies. He is almost certainly going to become one of the young millionaires like Ravindra Jadeja and Glenn Maxwell in the past.
The list of 514 names includes 219 capped players (169 Indians and 50 overseas players) and 292 uncapped players (255 Indians and 37 overseas players). The Associate ICC members will be represented by Ireland's Niall and Kevin O'Brien and Ryan Ten Doeschate of the Netherlands.
As per the tweaked player/auction regulations, each squad must include no less than 16 and no more than 27 players, of which up to 9 may be overseas players.
Uncertainty hangs over the venue of IPL 7 due to its timing expected to clash with the General Elections in India, but that hardly governs team owners' thoughts at the moment, who will arrive with the priority list ready in their pocket. And for a change, Rahul Dravid will be at the Rajasthan Royals' table not as a captain but as an out-and-out mentor.