As we head into the last month of the year, the cricketing calendar heats up with the Indian team embarking on its escapade Down Under. However, the tour to Australia won’t be the only cricketing drama on the minds of cricket enthusiasts.
In about three weeks’ time, the money-spinner of Indian cricket, the Indian Premier League, will conduct its 12th auction to set the ball rolling for another season of glitz, glamour and glory.
The 2018 edition saw the return of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals after their two-year hiatuses. While the latter failed to make an impression, the former went on to clinch their third IPL crown.
In the off-season, the teams have barely enjoyed a moment’s peace. The trade window has seen numerous teams burn the midnight oil to iron out their flaws. The likes of Quinton de Kock, Marcus Stoinis and Shikhar Dhawan have switched cities, while several others like Brendon McCullum and Mitchell Starc have been shipped back into the auction pool.
With many talented and proven cricketers in the auction pool, we can expect an action-packed evening of bidding in Jaipur on the 18th of December. In this article, we look at four players who can attract a bidding war and fetch big bucks at the auction.
#4. Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan)
Having burst on to the scene due to his obvious likeness to MS Dhoni’s batting style, the Afghan wicket-keeper has slowly but surely carved a niche for himself. Over the past couple of years, Afghanistan have scaled seemingly insurmountable peaks and their talismanic keeper has played his part to perfection.
Shahzad is a belligerent opening batsman who possesses the rare ability to hit the ‘big shots’ right from the start. Despite not being the most athletic cricketer around, he has found a way to make his batting click.
Blessed with freakish strength, the Afghan wicketkeeper can clear the boundary at will. Though he still looks a little suspect against top-quality opposition, his power game offsets that instantly. Recently, he struck 74 off 16 balls to raze down a target of 96, which brought to light his extraordinary hitting prowess.
Moreover, his ability to double up as a keeper would be an asset most teams would like to boast of.
For the last two years, there have been rumours that Shahzad could finally land his big-money contract, but that hasn't come to fruition yet. However, he could just have done enough by displaying his newfound maturity to make the cut this time round.
Thus, it would come as no surprise if several teams lock horns at the auction to acquire his services.
#3. Nicholas Pooran (West Indies)
Unlike others on the list, the swashbuckling left-hander has enjoyed a previous stint in the IPL. However, his time with the Mumbai Indians in 2017 didn’t go to plan as he failed to break into their title-winning squad.
In the succeeding years, Pooran has done his reputation no harm. A consistent performer in the West Indian domestic circuit, the left-hander recently lit up international cricket with a sparkling innings against India.
The southpaw has been touted as a potential star for a few years now. Though he didn’t live up to his promise initially, he has started hitting his straps more consistently now.
A wicket-keeper by profession, Pooran would lend balance to numerous teams looking for a run-scoring keeper. Additionally, he is quite adept at batting anywhere across the batting order, thus providing teams with flexibility.
The West Indian doesn’t seem to have any apparent weaknesses, and looks equally adept against pace and spin. Capable of playing shots all around the park, Pooran is also as imaginative a batsman as any; the big shots down the ground are complemented by the deft sweeps and reverse-sweeps. These aspects make Pooran an appealing option in the death overs.
With so many facets favouring him, we can expect teams to pit their wits against each other in order to bring the left-hander on board. Hence, it is no surprise that he makes our list at No. 3.
#2. Sam Curran (England)
The English all-rounder made his Test debut against Pakistan at Leeds during the home summer of 2018. The all-rounder quickly captured everyone’s imagination with his unique brand of swing bowling and composed batting.
Curran advertised his talents perfectly when India came calling. He tilted the first Test with a combination of fine bowling and batting, before shining with the bat again in the fourth match.
He took his displays up a notch on the tour of Sri Lanka. In the Test series, Curran portrayed heroic temperament to dig his team out of trouble while showcasing his vast array of attacking shots.
While ‘Curran: The Bowler’ might yet have some untapped potential, ‘Curran: The Batsman’ has well and truly arrived on the international stage.
On the batting front, the Northampton-born lad has shown the propensity to strike the ball cleanly. However, his ability to consistently put spinners under pressure and make them err on length has put him among those players keenly watched by IPL franchises.
Cricketers capable of being match-winners with either the ball or bat are not ubiquitous. Thus, Curran’s astronomical rise to stardom could land him a bumper contract come the 18th of December.
#1. Shimron Hetmyer (West Indies)
The elegant left-hander from Guyana had a stellar year on the international arena. Having scored a couple of hundreds against the UAE and Bangladesh, he arrived on Indian shores looking to enhance his reputation. And boy, did he do that.
Hetmyer was the star for West Indies in the ODI series. Batting in the middle order, he responded superbly to the spin threat of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. The left-hander made full use of his reach and swept the spinners for fun.
While his countering of spin earned many plaudits, it was his raw hitting ability that made the whole world sit up and take notice. Hetmyer was able to muscle sixes at will, and anything that pitched in his arc invariably ended up in the stands.
Since he is just 21 years of age, investing in Hetmyer could pay rich dividends. If he can unlock his vast potential, he could be the leading light for whichever team he signs up for.
The IPL is the perfect platform for big hitters like Hetmyer. Numerous power players like Chris Gayle, MS Dhoni, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell have made a living by pulverizing bowling attacks. Thus, it would make perfect sense to gamble on the left-hander from Guyana and provide him the stage to demonstrate his pyrotechnics.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Hetmyer is the player most likely to attract a bidding war when the 2019 IPL auction comes around.