It’s that wonderful, time-honored tradition once again: teams spend millions of dollars, pounds and rupees on a range of stars, second-tier cricketers, and Ishant Sharma.

Our background strategy (or, scroll down to skip to the good bit!)

There are plenty of world-class overseas T20 players to go around: whether you get a Brad Hodge, a David Hussey or a Mike Hussey is largely inconsequential, and unlikely to be a deciding factor between first and last place. History has shown us that over the years, the most successful teams are those with the best local, homegrown talent.

"This is what you get for giving me LBW."

“This is what you get for giving me LBW.”

In 2008, Rajasthan were the first team to realize that a Moneyball strategy would work best. They went for undervalued players and coached them according to their own customs. Over the years, Chennai have proved the most successful team, due to a base of Indian players: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, S Badrinath, Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin have each proved to be outstanding in their own way. Add four overseas players, and you already have most bases covered.

All teams (except for Chennai and Delhi) have held ‘boot camps’ for uncapped Indians. Focus has been on younger players, on the fringe of their Ranji Trophy sides. There are a few hundred players to choose from, and we should find that the sides that have been most thorough in their scouting of young Indians should turn out to be the most successful over the next few years.

Our Auction Strategy

The top tier of international players will mostly be sold with ease, so we’ll avoid addressing them, as they’re already likely to be more popular than a brown envelope in an IPL dressing room. We’re talking about the likes of George Bailey, Faf du Plessis, Brendon McCullum and David Warner. In addition, the likes of Corey Anderson and Glenn Maxwell, neither of whom are in the top tier of 200 lakhs, are bound to attract ceiling prices.

George Bailey, cute as a Suresh Raina dimple.

George Bailey, cute as a Suresh Raina dimple.

They’re each bound to go for plenty, so let’s stick to the ‘Alternative’ players who fit in with our strategy of finding cricketers who might be undervalued for several reasons: lack of media exposure, lack of experience, and lack of ‘glamour’ in comparison to the big names.

So, without further ado…

The 16 Players That Teams Have To Buy This IPL Auction, Plus Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen 

Hailed as the star of this year’s auction, Pietersen has wanted an IPL window since the concept was conceived. Now, he has one, but not under the circumstances he desired.

Teams want him not just for his runs, but for ‘KP, the brand.’ He dotes on sponsors, and schmoozes businessmen with consummate ease.

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Pietersen’s form has not been world-class for a while now, and one has to question whether his runs will be worth any potential hassle and drama. Don’t believe us? Compare Pietersen to the likes of George Bailey, who has been in world-class ODI and T20 form in the last year, and is a far superior fielder.

Plus, if Bailey was found to be texting the opposition, it would probably be along the lines of: “Sorry for forgetting to shake your hand after the game, I became preoccupied whilst feeding some local orphans.”

All considered, Pietersen has been hyped up to the extent where there is likely to be a bidding war, and he’ll go home a rich man. But he is not where the value lies, and overspending on one player early on will leave you hamstrung later, where the true bargains will be picked up.

VERDICT: Pietersen was bought for 900 lakhs by Delhi Daredevils. As captain, KP only scored one fifty in the entire IPL, as Delhi finished rock-bottom. 

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1. Cameron White 

Cameron White is the best captain in world cricket. Tactically astute, he knows cricket like Samit Patel knows samosas.

Despite having been in scratchy form during the last IPL, White has since smashed it to all parts in the Friends Life T20, where he scored three successive fifties in the knockout stages to lead Northamptonshire to victory, in the Ryobi Cup (third leading run-scorer), Sheffield Shield (second) and the recent bilateral T20 series against England, where he scored two fifties and 41 in the three games.

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White is at his best when hitting straight, and he has been in prime six-hitting form over the past few months through mid-off, a sign that he’s at his peak. He’s in prime form right now, and White would be my ultimate Moneyball pick: a player unlikely to go for the same $1.2m he was sold to the Deccan Chargers – Peace Be Upon Them – a few years ago, and a seasoned pro who you can build your side around.

With Rajasthan having lost the retired Rahul Dravid as captain and a calming influence on the side, White would be a like-for-like replacement as opener, and would forge a dream team with the forward-thinking Paddy Upton.

VERDICT: Unsold at auction(!)

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2. Quinton de Kock vbk-12-Quinton_de__1682855g.jpg

We have been huge fans of the precocious de Kock for years, and he enjoyed an outstanding end to 2013, scoring three consecutive ODI centuries, as well as performing brilliantly for the Lions as their wicket-keeping opening batsman.

He will be a permanent fixture in all three formats for South Africa for the next decade, and teams should consider going big on de Kock.

VERDICT: De Kock was bought for 350 lakhs by Delhi Daredevils, an inexplicable purchase for a side that had already spent a record amount on Indian wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik. As a result, de Kock only played seven games for Delhi, failing to reach fifty even once. There were promising knocks, but an average of 21 was a disappointing return for the South African starlet.

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3. Mitchell Starc 

Look, I know we promised no top-tier players, but despite having a base price of 200 lakh, Mitchell Starc could still be an undervalued prospect. We have been constantly preaching the value of ‘BOWLERS OVER BATSMEN’ in IPL cricket, because when it comes to the crunch, most IPL batsmen can hit local Indian bowlers out of the park.

But when it comes to the feared pacers, things change. In the past few years we’ve seen Malinga, Steyn, Morkel and Mitchell Johnson wreak havoc on both local and international batsmen. And that’s why Mitchell Starc will prove to be such a valuable asset.

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You want fast bowlers who can KILL an innings at both the start and the death. Starc’s inswinging toe-crushers are still an underrated prospect in world cricket, and if he stays fit, he should be one of the top wicket-takers this season.

VERDICT: Starc was bought for 500 lakhs by Royal Challengers Bangalore. Given that the Chinnaswamy Stadium is a bowler’s nightmare, Starc’s return of 14 wickets in 14 games was reasonable enough, along with his economy rate of 7.49. A middling season for the big Australian.

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4. Chris Lynn 

We rate Chris Lynn, very highly. He isn’t just a big-hitter, but he is an iceman, a young man with the temperament of someone who has been there, done that, and got the overpriced T-shirt.

We’ve seen him play several ‘whipsaw’ knocks, where he is faced with recovering an abject top-order collapse, yet still finds a way to smash his team out of trouble. This is a rare skill, that few batsmen possess. Even better, Lynn is already one of the best fielders around, and could well find himself in line for a World Cup berth next year.

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Ignore him at your peril, because Chris Lynn is one of the best young talents the game has to offer.

VERDICT: Lynn was bought for 130 lakhs by Kolkata Knight Riders. With one match-winning innings and a ridicucatch on DAYBOO, Lynn was set for a long stretch in the KKR team. Yet, one low score later, and that was the end of Lynn’s IPL. He didn’t do much wrong, yet only played two games all season!

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5. Shakib al Hasan

If Shakib-al-Hasan were Indian, how much would he go for in this auction? He has flirted with the no. 1 rankings in both ODI and T20Is, and is essentially a parallel version of Ravi Jadeja.

With seven international hundreds, it’s clear that Shakib can bat, but an IPL record of just 120 runs in 15 matches with Kolkata Knight Riders over the past two seasons shows that he hasn’t quite cracked the art of T20 batting just yet. However, Shakib certainly has the ability to score big runs, and quickly. He’s worth a punt as a left-arm spinner alone, and in the hope that his batting could eventually become match-winning.

VERDICT: Shakib finally turned around his IPL form with the bat, and as a result became one of the star players of the season. A strike-rate of 149 with the bat, coupled with an economy rate of just 6.68 with the ball, means that the Bangladeshi crotch-grabber was a steal at just 280 lakhs for eventual champions KKR.

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6. Jade Dernbach 

This Englishman has proven himself to be a specialist T20 bowler, one whom batsmen around the world fear at the death. His economy rate of 10.4 doesn’t tell the whole story, for with a wide array of slower balls, full tosses and — ha, we had you going there for a second!

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VERDICT: ROFL.

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7. Azhar Mahmood 

Azhar Mahmood should still be playing international cricket for Pakistan. An opening bowler who can bat at three, Mahmood’s experience as a specialist T20 player means that he is another Moneyball pick.

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VERDICT: Unsold

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8. Mitchell McClenaghan

2013 was the year of Mitch ‘The Model’ McClenaghan, nicknamed so because of his former occupation. He also owns a food company specializing in ‘paleo’ food, such as chia seeds, biltong, and protein powder. Yummy.

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McClenaghan’s occasional tendency to be erratic means that he might not yet be a first-choice pacer in an IPL side, but his ODI record (48 wickets in 22 games) is exceptional, and demands respect.

VERDICT: Unsold

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9. Tim Southee

Is Tim Southee the world’s most underrated cricketer?

He has now been around the international circuit for six years, and is currently at a career-high Test ranking. Southee has the ability to land yorkers, as well as the ability to bat as a six-smashing pinch-hitter. Teams are unlikely to chase after him, as he never seems to have had a trademark performance that has stuck in our minds. Instead, he’s a reliable – and improving – team player with his best years ahead of him.

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VERDICT: Southee was bought for 120 lakhs by Rajasthan Royals, but played just three games, without taking a wicket. His T20 game definitely needs more polishing, but with swing up front and yorkers at the death, he could still easily become one of the best.

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10. Thisara Perera 

Go big on Perera. He is a triple threat, with the ability to take stunning catches in the field and junk wickets with the ball, as well as being able to hit sixes from his first delivery. He is a rare talent, and one who has been under-the-radar for a few months due to perceived form issues.

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In reality, when it comes to T20, there are few players more ideal for an IPL side than Perera. Teams might go for his Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews, but don’t be fooled: Perera is a T20 match-winners, and Mathews has flattered to deceive for years.

VERDICT: Perera was bought for 160 lakhs by Kings XI Punjab, but didn’t play a single game this year, in part due to his lack of availability, but mainly due to Kings XI playing a very settled side throughout the season. 

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11. John Hastings 

Standing at 6’6″, Hastings is coming off the back of an excellent Big Bash League, where he finished with an economy rate of 6.15, picking up 13 wickets in the process. He is part of a clutch of Australian bowlers who have similar claims, characteristics, and statistics, but I’m plumping for Hastings over the likes of Bird, Hazlewood, Laughling and Hilfenhaus.

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This is partly due to how much we’ve seen IPL batsmen struggle at the first hint of steep bounce and movement. Granted, not every game will be played on a greentop, but throughout the season we will come across at least a handful of pitches that are juiced up (Dharamsala comes to mind). More pertinently, if IPL matches are relocated to either Sri Lanka (he had an outstanding stint in the SLPL) or South Africa, Hastings will be in his element. Moreover, ‘The Duke’ is worth taking a punt on as a back-up pacer who will be reliable when conditions are in his favour.

VERDICT: Hastings was bought by CSK for 50 lakhs, and only played one game, picking up one wicket.

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12. Azharullah 

“Who is Azharullah?”, I hear you ask.

Well, the 30 year old moved from Pakistan to England, and played his debut season for Northamptonshire in last year’s FLT20. He finished leading wicket-taker with 27 wickets from 12 games, and though he hasn’t played any cricket for a while, his ability to turn matches with his sharp yorkers means that Azharullah could prove to be a cheap buy as a back-up bowler.

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VERDICT: Unsold.

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12+1. Ben Dunk 

395 runs at 43.9, at a strike-rate of 146.

These are Ben Dunk’s ridicustats from this year’s Big Bash League, where he opened the innings for Hobart Hurricanes, taking them to the final. The 26 year old is usually a wicket-keeper, but Tim Paine held the gloves for Hobart this season, so it remains to be seen whether Dunk is in a rare purple patch, or whether he has found his true calling. Either way, Dunk has certainly shown us enough over the last couple of months to warrant a punt.

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VERDICT: Dunk was bought for 20 lakhs by Mumbai Indians. He opened in three games, scoring just 40 runs.

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14. Kane Richardson

Purchased by Pune Warriors last year for $700,000, Richardson – better known as ‘Kane Williamson’ to slippery-tongued commentators – was one of the stranger stories of last year’s IPL. He played just three matches towards the end of the season, and wasn’t given a run in the side despite a) being bought for $700k and b) Pune desperately needing a fast bowler.

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Richardson is still raw, aged 23, and has had a distinctly average domestic season. Still, his rare talent to swing the ball into the right-hander means that with a little honing, Richardson/Williamson could come into his own over the next few years. If available at a reasonable price, teams should look long-term with Kane Richardson, given that they have the option of renewing contracts after this season.

VERDICT: Richardson was bought for 100 lakhs by Rajasthan Royals, and had a reasonable season in which he was in and out of the side. He played seven games, picking up nine wickets, with an economy rate of 7.62.

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15. Ryan McLaren 

Along with Tim Southee, McLaren is one of the world’s more underrated cricketers. Having toiled in the shadow of Steyn, Philander, Morkel (both of them!) and even Tsotsobe, Kleinveldt et al, McLaren came into his own in 2013, proving his worth as both a death bowler and a lower-order hitter for South Africa.

A journeyman all-rounder, not a ‘big name’, in form and capable of winning matches? McLaren is likely to be underbid, and at under $500,000 (old habits, sorry), he’d prove to be a Moneyball buy.

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VERDICT: Unsold.

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16. Beuran Hendricks 

28 wickets in 11 games in the recent Ram Slam T20 confirmed Hendricks as one to watch – the next best was Kyle Abbott with 16. A left-armer with pace to boot, his accuracy and ability to nip the ball all over the place mean that this 23-year old has an extremely promising future. Don’t be surprised to see him break into the South African side within the next year.

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 VERDICT: Hendricks was bought for 180 lakhs by Kings XI Punjab and played three matches. Although he took four wickets, his economy rate of 10.5 was far too high.

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