The Indian Premier League mega auction is now one of the most massive events in the cricketing calendar. The decisions teams make not only impact their performance in that particular year but set the base for many seasons to come.

One of the key strategies teams will employ is trying to lock up a high potential player who could add value for upcoming seasons. The investment may not pay off immediately, but the long term returns will be worth paying the extra bucks for.

Let us identify some players who could be hot picks in the auction, not because they are presently T20 superstars, but because they could, potentially in a few years, be the face of the franchise that picks them:

Washington Sundar

Role: Left-hand bat/Offspin bowler

Age: 22

Set No 3 (All-rounders-1, #28)

He may have missed a large chunk of last year’s IPL due to injury, but Sundar was arguably one of the best spinners in the league in 2020, only second to Rashid Khan. An economy rate of 5.96 for a finger spinner is in itself unheard of. There are two qualities that make Sundar a ready-to-go T20 bowler – phase-proof and matchup-proof.

It is rare that spinners bowl a third of their overs in the powerplay. Sundar does that at an economy of just 6.44. He can also apply the choke right after the powerplay, making him a versatile option depending on the nature of seam bowling options in the league. More fascinatingly, Sundar concedes at only 6.80 runs per over to right-handers, one of the best for bowlers bowling to their unfavorable matchup. It is a hallmark of his ability to bowl consistent lengths while varying his speeds.

Apart from all this, Sundar’s untapped potential with the bat makes him a top-quality prospect. While his power-hitting ability is nowhere near his ceiling, he could be used as a floating option against spin or medium pace bowling. His batting is only going to improve with age on his side.

Washington Sundar interview: ‘An exciting challenge when the best batters go after you in powerplay’

Ishan Kishan

Role: Left-hand bat/wicket-keeper

Age: 23

Set No 4 (Wicketkeeper-1, #32)

Last season’s struggle at Chepauk was only a minor obstacle for one of India’s most promising batting talents. Kishan’s 2020 IPL was a glimpse into his destructive ability in the future. A stat line of 57/146 (Batting Average/Strike Rate, for future references) before his complete development against high level pace and understanding of innings construction proves that his ceiling is arguably the best of all Indian batters in the auction.

Kishan already has a strike rate of over 130 in all phases and has a favorable record against all bowling types apart from off spin. His six hitting ability coupled with intent in the middle overs makes him one of the few Indian batters who could be relied upon to both control the innings or initiate a counterattack depending on the match situation.

Furthermore, Kishan can in theory bat anywhere between positions 1-4 as well as keep. This offers tremendous value in the IPL auction because having Kishan provides additional flexibility to the management in terms of constructing the team around him.

Avesh Khan

Role: Right-arm fast medium pace

Age: 25

Set No 10 (Uncapped fast bowlers-1, #85)

His early IPL career did not take off as expected, but Avesh Khan’s 2021 season in both the UAE and India showed he is one of the few Indian seamers who could offer multi-phase value apart from Kartik Tyagi (more on him later). Avesh traded a few kph of pace for additional control that was evident in both his powerplay and death bowling last year.

It is Avesh’s death bowling value in particular that makes him one of the hottest players available in the market. His death bowling economy of below 8 Runs-Per-Over is exceptional but the fact that he operates at under 9 RPO regardless of the length he bowls is outstanding.

While some bowlers like T Natarajan or Tymal Mills rely solely on yorkers or hard lengths, Avesh can bowl a mixture of attempted yorkers, hard lengths and slow balls. This would enable him to adapt his split based on conditions – for e.g., while yorker will often be his primary weapon, he could bowl more slow balls on gripping surfaces or hard lengths against full-length power hitters because all his balls are so effective.

The yorker paradox in T20s: What goes into constructing a good slog over and who’s the best at it

Devdutt Padikkal

Role: Left-hand bat

Age: 21

Set No 2 (Batters-1, #13)

The fact that Padikkal has made his way into the first set of batters in the auction at the age of 21 is a testament to how strong his first two seasons were. His intent and lack of footwork is sometimes met with criticism, but Padikkal, when paired with a high intent complementary opener, still offers excellent value at his age.

Padikkal has already shown strong base potential against medium pace and the ball turning into him. This means that he can be a good option to control the innings in both the powerplay and the middle overs. Padikkal’s next stage of development is minimizing his losses against high pace (at hard lengths) and off spin. With potentially 15 more years in his career and still a few years before he hits his fastest development phase, he has shown enough to attract attention of teams even if it means spending additional bucks on getting an established opener to be a foil.

Tim David

Role: Right-hand bat

Age: 26

Set No 25 (Uncapped allrounders-3, #221)

The big hitting Singapore-born middle order batter has had one of the steepest rise to prominence in the T20 circuit over the last one year. After a strong Big Bash for the Hobart Hurricanes, David was the crisis man for both the Lahore Qalandars and the St. Lucia Kings in the PSL and CPL respectively. David has reinforced his value with some swashbuckling innings for Multan Sultans in his last few PSL innings.

In his Qalandars stint where the top order often collapsed, David showed the ability to reconstruct the innings at a rapid rate – a quality that teams will be attracted by. That is not even the most fascinating aspect of his batting – he is one of the few overseas RHBs who has a mind-blowing record against away spin (45/142 vs leg spin and 58/147 vs slow left arm). Coupled with his destructive ability against medium pace, he could be a ready-to-deploy finisher for most teams.

With him being so low down the auction order, it will be interesting to see how much teams adjust their auction strategy in an attempt to secure his services. In a 10-team auction, the already low supply of lower order hitters will be spread out, it is likely that multiple teams will be desperate to have enough in the bank to go after him in the accelerated auction process.

Wanindu Hasaranga

Role: Right-hand bat/leg-break-googly bowler

Age: 24

Set No 3 (Allrounders-1, #21)

Sri Lanka does not always have the strongest representation amongst overseas nations in the IPL, but Lasith Malinga managed to be MI’s franchise player for almost a decade. If there is one player who can replicate that, it is possibly Hasaranga. Having taken the T20 international scene by storm with his wristspin and floating batting value, Hasaranga should be a key target for most teams.

In a 10-team auction, the Indian wristspin bowling options are scarce, and more teams could look for overseas reinforcements this time around. Hasaranga has multiple qualities that suggest he could be a long-lasting wristspinner – pace, accuracy and disguise. He can dial up or dial down his pace based on the match situation and conditions, has a legbreak and googly with similar release and rarely bowls half trackers or full tosses.

What differentiates Hasaranga from the remaining overseas spin bowling pool (read Adam Zampa, Adil Rashid, Tabraiz Shamsi) is his ability to float up the order with the bat. He has solid gears against spin and has shown innovative range against medium pace. With age on his side to work on his secondary skill, he could work his way into becoming a starting XI regular for years to come.

Kartik Tyagi

Role: Right-arm fast medium

Age: 21

Set No 10 (Uncapped fast bowlers-1, #89)

Tyagi pulled off one of the historical moments in IPL history with an exceptional final over against the Punjab Kings last IPL. That over was the launchpad for Tyagi to gain confidence and become one of the in-demand Indian death bowlers in the auction pool. Tyagi can bowl at a high pace and has excellent control of his lengths, if not line.

Often, the bowlers with the best yorker accuracy are those who operate in the range of 130kph, but Tyagi belongs in the top 10 percentile of yorker accuracy despite bowling at a high pace. Coupled with his ability to rush up batters with hard length deliveries, he is one of the most potent death bowlers going around.

Another quality that stands out in Tyagi is how steadfast he is in sticking to his plans when hit at the death. Death bowling is one of the most thankless tasks in cricket and recovering from being hit for boundaries is a valuable skill to have – this was on display in the 2020 IPL when he bowled to the likes of AB de Villiers, Nicholas Pooran and Andre Russell.

Shimron Hetmyer

Role: Left-hand bat

Age: 25

Set No 1 (Batters-1, #11)

Given how many peaks and troughs he has had in his career so far, it is easy to forget that Hetmyer is only 25 and adapting to a highly volatile middle order role. After a quiet first two seasons where he was shifted around the order, Hetmyer came into his own in 2021, showing signs of a good finisher after having been offered role clarity.

Teams can take advantage of Hetmyer’s versatility with his improved pace game, especially against full lengths. Strangely, his potential against spin has not been exploited so far, so the team that snaps him up could also use him at a #3 or #4 role where he can control the middle overs before blasting – a role he has played for the West Indies and the Guyana Amazon Warriors.

Apart from his six hitting power, Hetmyer is one of the more skillful batters in the circuit. He has the ability to hit spinners inside out, can minimize dot balls in the middle overs on tricky pitches and has added a ramp shot and upper cut.

Rahul Chahar

Role: Leg-break-googly bowler

Age: 22

Set No 6 (Spinners-1, #48)

He may have flown under the radar in an MI bowling attack that is often studded with star quality pacers, but Rahul Chahar is likely to fetch a huge bid in this year’s auction with him being the only reliable Indian wristspinner in the pool apart from Yuzvendra Chahal.

Chahar showed how lethal he can be on tracks that offer turn in the 2021 IPL by predominantly bowling ripping leg breaks with brilliant revolutions. He also has one of the larger pace ranges for wristspinners showing he can adapt to different batter types and conditions as he develops better game awareness. He only uses his googly sparingly but with more experience, it could become a more potent weapon.

Chahar’s returns were sometimes hampered by the lack of starting XI offspinners in the MI bowling setup. He ended up bowling to more left handers than he should have without a fully developed googly. If he is picked in a bowling combination with better complementary spin resources, it could accelerate his development from an above average to top-tier wristspinner.

Shahrukh Khan

Role: Right-hand bat

Age: 26

Set No 8 (Uncapped allrounders-1, #67)

It is not often that an uncapped Indian batter is one of the players who is likely to create a storm in a mega auction featuring a plethora of overseas stars. Such is that impact that Shahrukh Khan has had in domestic cricket for Tamil Nadu in limited overs cricket. He has also shown he is more than capable of making the step up in the IPL in the few opportunities he got last season.

In the 2021 SMAT, Shah Rukh struck at a rate of 181 with an average of 47 – it is not often that brute power in a highly volatile role goes together with consistency. He showed ability to construct an innings in the 50-over format as well, as well as during his innings against CSK last IPL.

Shahrukh has an excellent hitting base against both pace and spin with good weight transfer off both the front and backfoot, a clean bat swing and monstrous power to go with it. He will be tested by high pace and wristspin – his immediate obstacles – but teams will be incredibly keen to lock him up as a 6+ year prospective finisher with the role he does being so short on supply in the auction.

Odean Smith

Role: Right-hand bat/right-arm fast

Age: 25

Set No 13 (Allrounders-2, #115)

After an impressive Under-19 Cricket World Cup all the way back in 2016, Smith had a rough introduction into the T20 circuit in the CPL. However, working with experienced coaches and players while on the bench has paid off as he has burst to stardom in the span of eight months. Under the guidance of Andre Russell, Smith has taken his six-hitting to an elite level – his strike rate in the T10 league was a hardly believable figure of 283.

Smith has a stable power hitting base and can access both the offside and the leg side with his brute power. His ability to tee off from ball one will make him a good candidate to bat at #7 for the final impetus. It does not end at that – he can also bowl at over 145 kph when fully fit. While he has struggled for control, Smith can hit the deck hard and rush up any batter on a good day. The performance against India in the second One Day International might have come at the perfect time for Smith, who has listed himself at a base price of Rs 1 crore.

The supply of seam bowling allrounders in the auction is limited with the pull outs of Ben Stokes and Sam Curran, as well as the retirement of Chris Morris. With teams already aware of his ability (he trained with KKR in 2021), Smith could not only fetch a bid but a huge one keeping in mind his growth curve.

Set details as provided by IPL.