With a total of 90 slots available to be filled from more than 400 players, the Women’s Premier League auction on Monday will witness some serious bidding wars for players. The additional restraint will be the fact that teams have only Rs 12 crores in their purse for building a team from scratch.

It would be a fair assumption to say a lot of the top buys will be bunched close to each other. There perhaps won’t be a big gap among the top 10, except for potentially a couple of Indian superstars for the franchises to build their bases on. Of course, that term you often hear on this day – auction dynamics – will play a part in the final pricing, with potentially a surprise or three in store based on the order players’ names come out and the team’s requirements.

So here’s a look at what we think a top 10 list at the end of the day would look like. (This is in no particular order.)

Smriti Mandhana (Base price: Rs 50 lakh)

Quite simply, the best Indian player on offer in the auction – not just based on skills, but given her age, leadership potential and marketability. Smriti Mandhana is still only 26, and she has been around long enough to establish herself as one of the best in the game. Two-time ICC player of the year, Mandhana has recently had good runs in the shortest format too, adding a layer of explosiveness to her already elegant brand of cricket. It’d be a no-brainer for franchises to bid big for her and establish a base for the next few years.

“WPL is also going to help us understand this is how I have to be in a new environment, or this is how the team needs to perform,” she told JioCinema. “So I am sure that sort of experience to build a women’s PL team will be a really exciting thing and will help me a lot grow as a player and be more mature.”

Harmanpreet Kaur (Base price: Rs 50 lakh)

Equally as important as the vice captain of the national side, is the captain who can change matches with a few swings of her bat. Harmanpreet Kaur will expectedly be sought after by franchises as a leader. At 33, she might be closer to the end of her cricketing career than the start but she hasn’t given many reasons to think that the finish line is in sight. Having had one of her best years in 2022 with the bat, she looks in good form at the start of 2023 too. And as a captain, she will also be hoping to unearth some gems for the national side along the way.

“It helps players build confidence. When I was playing in Australia, that gave me a lot of confidence to do well in international cricket. Now, the WPL is going to play the same role for Indian domestic players. Whenever we share the dressing room with overseas players, it is always very special for all of us. That is something all domestic players are looking forward to,” Harmanpreet had told JioCinema recently.

Ellyse Perry (Base price: Rs 50 lakh)

Not so long ago, Ellyse Perry found herself out of the Australian first XI in T20Is. Imagine that... potentially a contender for the greatest the game has seen, Perry’s batting strike rate wasn’t what the Australian team was expecting it to be. So what did Perry do? She upgraded. Her WBBL strike rate last season was close to 120 and she scored more than 400 runs. Her international strike rate since 2022 is close to 160. A fast-starter these days, Perry is a near must-have for teams for her three-dimensional skill-set. If the WPL had come a couple of years back (why didn’t it, we wonder) Perry might not have figured right near the top of this list but don’t be surprised if she is by the end of the auction on Monday.

Ash Gardner (Base price: Rs 50 lakh)

If she wasn’t already going to figure in the plans for most franchises’ big money buys, Gardner’s five-for against New Zealand in the World Cup match on Saturday would have pushed her higher up. A brilliant power-hitter (career T20I strike rate around 133, which moves up towards 150 in the last couple of years and a whopping ~170 in India in her 7 innings), her spin-bowling is a valuable asset and she is a gun fielder too.

Nat Sciver-Brunt (Base price: Rs 50 lakh)

While her bowling can be hit-and-miss at times, Nat Sciver-Brunt’s batting is as reliable and efficient as it gets in the game. She has this unique ability to strike at well over run-a-ball without evidently hitting a shot in anger. The English star is a match-winner like few others in the game, and given the possibility of overseas fast-bowling all-rounders figuring high in the plans for franchises, she will be right at the top.

Marizanne Kapp (Base price: Rs 40 lakh)

Speaking of gun overseas fast-bowling all-rounders, Marizanne Kapp is right up there with the best in the world. The 33-year-old can bowl in the powerplay and death overs (with excellent control) and bats at No 3 in the shortest format. Quite simply, she is a high-impact player for the price of two. And comes with plenty of overseas league experience too. Although, for some reason, she values herself at Rs 40 lakh base price. As if that would matter in the end as franchises would surely fight for her services.

Richa Ghosh (Base price: Rs 50 lakh)

The ceiling is very high for Richa Ghosh and even at this moment, her form alone is worth a significant bid. Indian women’s cricket has a problem of sorts with most of the top batters in the country being specialist top-order batters otherwise, but as the wicketkeeper and designated finisher, Ghosh’s skill-set is unique and wonderful. Her 9 sixes in a warm-up match against Bangladesh before the ongoing World Cup would have added a few Lakhs to her bid and she went one step further by starring in a high-scoring run-chase against Pakistan.

Deepti Sharma (Base price: Rs 50 lakh)

Without doubt, India’s best spinner at the moment. Deepti Sharma’s all-round abilities drew comparisons with Heather Knight not so long back but the Bengal cricketer has pivoted on her bowling in recent times. Having made a 188 in an ODI a few years back at the top of the order, her batting has been hit and miss, with no set roles over a long period of time. But of late, there seems to be more clarity in that department too and she is now consistently scoring useful runs at the back-end as a lower-middle order bat. And at a good rate too. With her superb fielding skills too, Deepti could well be seen as a central figure by one of the franchises and a potential leader.

Shafali Verma (Base price: Rs 50 lakh)

Like Richa Ghosh, the ceiling is still very high for Shafali Verma. After a swashbuckling start to her international career as a 15-year-old, on the back of a good introduction to the Women’s T20 Challenge, Verma has been consistently one of the fastest scorers in the game. As one would expect for a youngster breaking through with unorthodox technique, Verma’s form has been up and down in the recent past, as she lost her place in the ODI side briefly before now finding some consistency once more. Her aggression is a bit more measured these days and given how that hasn’t still stopped her from having one of the best strike rates in the game, teams would love to have her in their side. Oh, and the small matter of leading India U19 to the World Cup title would help too. If not immediately (given the many other Indian and overseas options for five captaincy roles), she is a potential leader for the future.

Sophie Ecclestone (Base price: Rs 50 lakh)

As mentioned earlier in the piece, among overseas cricketers it is likely that power-hitters and pace-bowling all-rounders will command the biggest bids because of their value to a T20 side, and India’s relative dearth in those departments. An exception to that rule, and rightly so, will likely be Sophie Ecclestone. While someone like Amelia Kerr too is likely to be a tempting option among spinners, Ecclestone’s four overs are usually game-changing. Her average of 15.93 and economy rate of 5.90 are excellent by any standards but it is her strike rate of 16.2 that is among the best in the world in the last four years (full member nations) that must tip franchises to bank on her. Her batting too has improved tremendously in recent times. She is the world’s best bowler at the moment and that will reflect in the bids on Monday.

Which player did we miss out in our list? Who else do you think will likely be in the top 10? Let us know on Twitter @thefield_in.