The Indian Premier League (IPL) is set for another mini-revamp as teams look to fill gaps in their squads and paper over the cracks that may have emerged in the 2022 season which immediately followed the mega-auction of February 2022.
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With 87 player slots up for grabs and teams, saddled with smaller purses, scrambling to get their combinations right, the December 23 auction is set to be another gripping affair. Against this backdrop, the fight for Indian batters should be intense as franchises turn towards homegrown talent in search for consistency and adeptness against spin bowling for a season that will see the return of the home and away format after a hiatus of almost four years.
Here are the top five Indian batters who could spark an intense bidding war on December 23:
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NARAYAN JAGADEESAN (BASE PRICE: INR 20 LAKH)
The Tamil Nadu opener is coming off a record-breaking run in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy, where he was the top run scorer with 830 runs in eight matches, averaging an astounding 138.33 while striking at 125.37. Jagadeesan struck the highest individual score in List A cricket with a stellar knock of 277 off 141 balls against Arunachal Pradesh in November. His rich vein of form in the tournament saw Jagadeesan become the first batter to score five consecutive hundreds in List A cricket. The 26-year-old had a lukewarm Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy season, scoring 118 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 131.11 as Tamil Nadu failed to move past the group stage of the 20-over tournament.
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Jagadeesan, who was bought by Chennai Super Kings for his base price of INR 20 lakh at the IPL 2022 auction, was released by the franchise ahead of the mini-auction. The right-hander has set his base price at INR 20 lakh for the December 23 auction.
MAYANK AGARWAL (BASE PRICE: INR 1 CRORE)
Agarwal had a disastrous maiden IPL captaincy stint with Punjab Kings in 2022, scoring 196 runs in 12 innings at a forgettable average of 16.33. Retained for a whopping INR 14 crore ahead of the IPL 2022 mega auction, Agarwal was replaced by Shikhar Dhawan as captain of Punjab Kings and then released from the squad of the December 23 auction. The Karnataka skipper’s lukewarm form of late in domestic cricket belies his skill and experience. Prior to IPL 2022, Agarwal had his most successful IPL stint in 2021, scoring 441 runs at a strike rate of 140.45 for Punjab Kings, a season that prompted the franchise to name him captain the following year, in the absence of KL Rahul.
Other than being a specialist opener, Agarwal can also play in the middle-order, as he did on four occasions in IPL 2022 and can also score at a fast clip. His strike rate of 167.00 in a chart-topping Maharaj T20 Trophy 2022 season is a testimony of his ability to switch gears.
MANISH PANDEY (BASE PRICE: INR 1 CRORE)
Another talented Karnataka batter finds himself out of favour with the national team as well as IPL franchises. Roped in by Lucknow Super Giants for INR 4.60 crore at the previous auction, Pandey failed to make a mark. As a result, he played only six matches, in which he managed only 88 runs at an average of 14.67 while striking at 110. However, the 33-year-old had a decent run in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, averaging 61.75 for his 247 runs in seven innings. With some more consistency, Pandey can be an asset for teams eyeing a reliable Indian middle-order batter who can handle both spin and pace in equal measure.
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Much like his Karnataka teammate Agarwal, Pandey had a rewarding Maharaja T20 Trophy 2022, notching up 358 runs at an average of 51.14 and healthy strike rate of 160-plus, but will need to replicate this form at the highest level.
ROHAN KUNNUMMAL (BASE PRICE: INR 20 LAKH)
Riding on his maiden India A call-up for the Bangladesh tour in November after plundering runs in First-Class cricket for Kerala, the naturally attacking batter will be itching to prove his mettle in the biggest T20 league in the world. Kunnummal’s four centuries and as many fifties in just 11 First-Class innings bear testimony to his consistency and a strike rate of 82.41 in red-ball cricket does no harm to his credentials either. The 24-year-old top scored for Kerala in the Vijay Hazare Trophy with 414 runs, averaged 103.50 and struck the ball at 131.84, though his returns in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy were significantly leaner (201 runs in eight innings at an average of 28.71).
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Last month, Kunnummal attended simulation sessions with Rajasthan Royals, Delhi Capitals and Kolkata Knight Riders in the lead up to the mini-auction and should be on the radar of a number of franchises.
VIVRANT SHARMA (BASE PRICE: INR 20 LAKH)
Left-handed opener Vivrant turned heads in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2022 tournament with his 124-ball 154 against Uttarakhand, which helped Jammu and Kashmir earn its maiden knockouts berth in the history of the tournament. Earlier in the tournament, he had top scored with a 62-ball 69 as J&K chased down a mammoth 343 against Ranji Trophy defending champion Madhya Pradesh. Vivrant was the second-highest scorer for the team in the 50-over tournament, with 395 runs at an average of 56.42. He scored two fifties in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and racked up 128 runs at a commendable strike rate of 145.45.
The 23-year-old has shown his big-hitting prowess against pacers and spinners alike. The youngster also has a cool head and can adapt to the situation and rotate strike when necessary.