The previous Indian Premier League (IPL) edition was unexpected and unforeseen -- a season that initially was on the brink of being shelved before it picked up the pace to put a smile on the face of every cricket fanatic.
Despite the energy of crowds and jam-packed stadiums were two major things missing in an IPL season which was shifted to the UAE amid coronavirus pandemic, players -- barring a few initial hiccups -- gave it everything for the fans while being in an unforeseen bio-bubble.
Apart from the Covid-19 threat, the previous season was all about unexpected bits and pieces. From MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) finishing on the seventh place (missing playoffs spot for the first time) to the fast-paced tournament rolling out a dramatic twin Super Over -- IPL 2020 didn't disappoint when it came to providing edge-of-your-seat thrillers. It all boiled down to Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians (MI) lifting their fifth IPL trophy by defeating a relatively inexperienced Delhi Capitals (DC) side in the summit clash.
Exactly 100 days after the MI-DC final at Dubai, the IPL fever is back again, with the eight franchises ready for a mini-recruitment drive ahead of the 14th season, expected to be played in India around April. As many as 292 players will go under the hammer at the auction for the 2021 season in Chennai on 18th February.
The IPL had announced that 1,114 players had registered initially and the eight franchises submitted their shortlisted players. The final list consisted of 292 players, out of which 164 are Indian, 125 overseas and 3 players from Associated nations. While it's a gamble to go for foreign players, the franchises won't shy away from bidding on their top overseas picks.
Here we take a look at top foreign players who could attract massive bids at the IPL 2021 auction:
Steve Smith (Base price: INR 2 cr)
In a move that surprised many, Rajasthan Royals, the winner of the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), let go of their skipper Steve Smith ahead of the 2021 edition.
Smith had started off well in IPL 2020, which was played in the UAE, but his performance fell as the league unravelled leaving him with 311 runs in the 14 matches he played, at a strike rate of 131, including three half-centuries.
Smith's experienced and ability to shift gears would certainly attract massive bids. In 95 IPL games, the ex-Aussie skipper has scored 2333 runs including a ton and 11 half-centuries. He'll be looking to score big and earn a place in his new franchise this upcoming season.
Glenn Maxwell (Base price: INR 2 cr)
Australia's Glenn Maxwell released by Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) after a disappointing last season in the UAE. Tagged among flops of the IPL season in the UAE, Maxwell managed to score just 108 runs. He had a dismal average of 15.52 and a below-par strike rate of 101.88 in 13 games, ending his abysmal IPL 2020 campaign without hitting a single six.
Despite having a lacklustre season, Maxwell's batting prowess is likely to fetch him bids at the IPL 2021 auction. The all-rounder himself has expressed eagerness to work with his 'idol' AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli at the Bangalore outfit.
Dawid Malan (Base price: INR 1.5 cr)
Malan, the current No.1 T20I batsman boasts an impressive record for his national side. The English batsman is yet to play an IPL season but his record in international cricket speaks volumes about his calibre.
Malan has scored 855 runs in just 19 innings at a strike rate of 149.47. Rajasthan Royals, a side known for adding Poms to their weaponry, could go for Malan to partner Jos Buttler at the top.
After releasing the likes of Steve Smith, Ankit Rajpoot, Oshane Thomas, Tom Curran, and Varun Aaron, the Royals have ₹37.85 Crores in their purse.
Shakib Al Hasan (Base price: INR 2 cr)
After serving a one-year suspension for failing to report approaches made to him by bookmakers, the Bangladesh stalwarts is all set to ply his trade again in the IPL.
Shakib has played 63 games in the IPL and scored 746 runs in addition to picking up 59 wickets, making him a favourite for franchises who are in dire need of an all-rounder.
The 33-year-old, upon his return to the international stage, played a vital role in sealing a 3-0 series win against West Indies in the ODI series. He picked up six wickets and also scored 113 runs against the Men in Maroon. Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore might bid for Shakib to fill the void of Maxwell and Chris Morris respectively.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Base price: INR 1.5 cr)
Along with Maxwell, the Punjab outfit also parted ways with Mujeeb Ur Rahman -- a young tweaker who was picked by them in IPL 2018 for INR 4.0 crore. In 11 matches, he picked up 14 wickets and was on his way to becoming what Rashid Khan is for SunRisers Hyderabad.
However, a couple of bad seasons led to Mujeeb getting sidelined from the Punjab squad. The mystery spinner has flourished under the leadership of R Ashwin and Anil Kumble, making him a perfect choice for sides who are looking to bolster their spin department. Also, being only 19 would help Mujeeb fetch decent bids.
Jason Roy (Base price: INR 1.5 cr)
Though Jason Roy's IPL career hasn't shaped up the way he wanted it to be, his experience and ability to bat at the top can start a bidding war. Roy, so far, has scored just 179 runs in the IPL, 91 of which came in one innings.
After Shane Watson's departure, Chennai Super Kings would likely target Roy to fill the opening slot. Similarly, Royal Challengers Bangalore could also go for the explosive English opener to fill Aaron Finch's place.
Jhye Richardson (Base price: INR 1.5 cr)
Jhye Richardson could emerge as one of the most expensive buys of the IPL 2021 auction. Richardson, a part of Australia's T20I squad, can prove lethal in Powerplays. In international cricket, Jhye has picked up 78 wickets in 61 games at a strike rate of 17.5 and conceded at just 7.81.
The right-arm pacer also had an excellent BBL season for Perth Scorchers, where he plucked 27 wickets at an economy of 7.09. Richardson will be a good pick for teams looking to sharpen their pace battery.
Moeen Ali (Base price: INR 2 cr)
Moeen Ali, who played a quick-fire 43 in the second Test against India along with scalping eight wickets on a Chepauk turned, will likely be approached by many teams for his all-round ability.
Since his T20 debut for England, Ali has featured in 34 T20Is, scoring 392 runs at an average of 17.00 and strike rate of 134.7. With a base price of INR 2 crore, Ali can be bought by Chennai Super Kings (CSK) as a suitable replacement for Kedar Jadhav or Piyush Chawla. In 19 IPL games for RCB, Ali has scored 309 runs at 20.6 and picking 10 wickets at an economy of 7.13.
Aaron Finch (Base price: INR 1 cr)
Australia's white-ball skipper Aaron Finch, released by Royal Challengers Bangalore after a below-par IPL season, will be up for grabs in the IPL 2021 auction. With his experience and explosive prowess at the top, Finch can be a valuable pick for any franchise.
In 66 T20I matches for Australia, Finch has over 2000 runs at an average of 37.70. His IPL career, however, hasn't been as glittery. Finch, having played for eight IPL teams so far, averages just over 25 and has a strike-rate of 127.
Mustafizur Rahman (Base price: INR 1 cr)
Having already played in the IPL for SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH), Mustafizur Rahman will aim to make an impact with his left-arm pace bowling. The Bangladesh international missed out on the 2020 season despite being approached by Mumbai Indians (MI) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) due to the non-issuance of a NOC from the Bangladesh Cricket Board.
Mustafizur was a key part of SRH’s title-winning team in 2016 and even won the emerging player of the year award that season. He has 24 wickets in 24 IPL games at a strike-rate of 22.79.