Flintoff expected to be prime target at Goa IPL auction

Richard Medley, the English auctioneer who played host to the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) first ever auction last year, will not be seen in action this time around. After all, just 43 cricketers will be up for sale, and the buzz is that the entire event will hardly last an hour, at the best.

Barring four players — Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, Michael Clarke and JP Duminy — one has to wait and watch if the franchises will be willing to spend those precious dollars on anybody else.

Pietersen, priced at $1.35m, is the costliest player as far as the reserve prices go. The South African-born English cricketer is followed by Australia’s Clarke at $1m, England all-rounder Flintoff at $950,000 and South African Duminy at $300,000.

So, here are the biggest rumours that may well turn out to be true if those in the business of Twenty20 are to be believed. Bangalore Royal Challengers will go to any length — which is not more than the price cap of $2m — to get Pietersen. The logic being given here is that the Challengers desperately need an aggressive batsman like him.

Clarke, in all probability, is not likely to fetch a lot more than what he’s already been priced at. It’ll be a surprise, say those who will be involved with the spending, if the Aussie is picked for the “stupendous amount that is his base price”.

“What is the point of buying him at $1 million when he is only available during the fag end of the tournament?” a team owner asked. The onus, therefore, will be on Flintoff, who the franchise officials reckon can go on to become the costliest cricketer of the money-spinning IPL so far.

From Mumbai Indians to Chennai Super Kings and King’s XI Punjab, they’ll all be gunning for the all-rounder and in plain cricketing terms, that’s what these three sides precisely need in otherwise well-balanced sides. Officials from these three teams admitted to the TOI that they will “go all the way for Flintoff.”

That leaves JP Duminy, the South African who shot to fame on the recent tour of Australia. Kolkata Knight Riders, without Pakistani Salman Butt and Deccan Chargers in the absence of Shahid Afridi, are the teams eyeing the youngster.

Among the rest in fray, 39 of them, any player coming under the hammer, especially for anything more than just the reserve price, will be a huge surprise. But those who will miss the IPL bus still stand a chance to get picked.

“Those who will be unsold in the second IPL auction can be bought as replacements but the teams don’t have more than $2 million in the auction,” Lalit Modi told TOI on Wednesday. It means that the money, which was supposed to be paid to the Pakistani players can now be used by the respective franchisees to buy replacements after the auction.

According to sources, defending champions Rajasthan Royals have the maximum (5) empty slots in the auction while the Chargers have three.

Teams like Delhi Daredevils, Chennai Super Kings and Punjab Kings XI have two slots respectively while Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders have one vacant slot each. The interesting bit is that not every franchisee will have $2 million to spend.

In the process of buying some uncapped players from South Africa, Australia and Sri Lanka and after signing last year’s replacements for next two years, some of the franchisees are left with around $1.2 million.

But Modi sounded optimistic. “Recession is a worldwide issue but there is no threat to IPL. After Royals sold their stakes, I was amazed by the market value of IPL just after a year. This kind of valuation is one of the biggest things to have happened in the world of sport,” he said.

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