Teams play safe, retain star players, total purse at Rs 148 crore versus Rs 198 crore last year, reports Urvi Malvania.
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The promoters of the Vivo Indian Premier League franchises will be back on the bidding floor as they try and get the combinations right for this year's tournament.
The last edition of the first 10-year cycle of the IPL, the 2017 edition has eight teams participating, including the Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Super Giants.
Both these teams replaced the Rajasthan Royals and the Chennai Super Kings after the duo was suspended for two years on counts of spot fixing.
Being the last year of the current cycle, the 2017 auction could be the most muted so far.
The teams have played it safe and retained most of the Indian marquee players, including M S Dhoni (Pune), Virat Kohli (Bangalore), Gautam Gambhir (Kolkata), Rohit Sharma (Mumbai), Shikhar Dhawan (Hyderabad) and Yuvraj Singh (Hyderabad).
The total salary cap for each team this year is Rs 60 crore.
Most teams have used almost two-thirds of the individual purses in a bid to retain players.
Among the players released are Kevin Pietersen, Ishant Sharma, Mitchell Johnson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Corey Anderson, Pawan Negi, Eoin Morgan and Trent Boult, all of whom saw considerable bidding in the 2016 auction.
This year, since a bulk of the players have been retained, the total money available for the auctions is considerably lower than last year.
This year, the collective purse is Rs 148 crore, while last year, it was Rs 198 crore.
Having said that, last year was special since the two new teams essentially had more money left for auctions, as they had only picked five players before going in for bidding, according to the rules set by the IPL Governing Council.
Until last year, southpaw Yuvraj Singh was the one of the most sought after players in the auction. He has, in the past, commanded bids up to Rs 16 crore (2015, Delhi Daredevils). Last year, however, he was not the costliest player to be bought by a team.
While Singh was among the top buys at Rs 7 crore -- forked out by Sunrisers Hyderabad -- Shane Watson was picked up by the Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 9.5 crore.
This year, the bidding may be less aggressive, or it could be limited to capped players (those who have played international one-day matches for the national team).
"It will be a more conservative and sensible bidding session. No one knows what's in store after 2017. Teams will want to construct the best team possible, retain the combinations that worked, and acquire, at a sensible price, those players they are convinced will add value," says an executive from one of the teams.
"It's not that money won't be spent. The fact that most have been retained means that teams are willing to spend. But the bid wars we have seen in the past may be somewhat subdued," the executive added.
Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab will enter the auction with the most money -- Rs 23.1 crore and Rs 23.35 crore respectively.
Mumbai Indians will be going in with the lightest purse at Rs 11.56 crore.
A total of seven players -- one batsman (Morgan), three bowlers (Sharma, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Johnson) and three all-rounders (Chris Woakes, Angelo Mathews and Ben Stokes) -- will be available for auction at a base price of Rs 2 crore.
Other capped players are available at between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1.5 crore.
Uncapped players are available a reserve price starting at Rs 10 lakh.
Once the auction has been completed, television ad sales for the 2017 IPL season are expected to take off in full swing.
Advertisers usually wait for the final line-up of the matches and the team compositions to place their bets on which games will draw more viewership.
While there is a lot of controversy around the game of cricket and its administration in India, past seasons of the IPL have shown that ad sales rarely suffer as long as the cricket on show is up to scratch.
The coming weeks will tell whether advertiser interest in the game and demonetisation will impact Sony Pictures Network's and Hotstar's ad sales.
While Sony holds the broadcast rights in the Indian subcontinent on television, Hotstar holds the rights for digital streaming. Both are in the last year of their media rights contract with the BCCI.
IMAGE: The Sunrisers Hyderabad team after winning the IPL in 2016. Photograph: BCCI