New Delhi: As many as 350 players from India and abroad will go under the auctioneer's hammer in Bangalore on January 8-9 where ten IPL franchisee will be bidding for the top stars to feature in the lucrative T20 league.
Barring a dozen players, including superstars Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virender Sehwag, who have been retained by their previous franchises in advance of the auction as per IPL player regulations, most of the world's top players and emerging superstars are up for grabs.
Though every franchisee will be fighting for the big names in cash rich event but there will be a few names who can emerge as the underdogs and can be more than handful for their respective franchisees. Here are the list of few dark horses which can emerge as the biggest surprise in this year's IPL:
Shaun Marsh: Marsh scored the most runs in the league stage of tournament in 2008 edition of IPL, including a century in the final league stage match against the Rajasthan Royals. He was also awarded with orange cap for scoring most runs in same year. With Kings XI Punjab not renewing his contract he can be real star who can turn the things for any franchisee which takes him. An opener who has the knack of hitting the ball long way and can help the team get off to a flying start in early overs. Teams like Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai Indians and two new franchisee should bid for him as he would be a real cheeky buy who can be bowlers nightmare.
Dwayne Bravo: Left out by Mumbai Indians, this Trinidad and Tobago born all-rounder can be key with both bat and ball as he had already proved it in the last year stint with Mumbai. A genuine match winner is one of the most reliable one day bowlers and has the real ability to contain the batsmen in slog overs. He will surely be expected to play a significant role in IPL with the bat as well as he can up the ante at any given point of time and can take away the match from the opponents with some lusty hittings.
Eoin Morgan: Royal Challengers Bangalore surely has missed a trick here by not retaining him in this years IPL squad. Morgan is one of the finest left-handers of the game. The 23-year-old, Morgan is a good student of the game. That, combined with his stroke-making abilities, has helped establish him as a good 'finisher' for England. Though his numbers in first-class cricket and domestic limited over cricket aren't too flattering, Morgan is seen as someone with a lot of promise and who can go on to an important signing for any franchisee.
Graeme Swann: Arguably one of the best spinner in the Tests at the moment, should be one of the first choice buys for many franchisee. Right arm offie has the ability to pick the wickets at crucial point of time and at the same time he can contain the batsman with his clever bowling. Though he has never been tested in the shorter form of the game but he can surely replicate his Test success in this arena. Seeing the success of spinners in previous edition and keeping in mind of Indian wickets he will surely be a nig success and a top contender for the purple cap.
Rohit Sharma: Rohit Sharma was awarded as the best Under-23 player in the second season of IPL and he continued with his good work in the third season. His performance in various editions of IPL has lit up the tournament and can be seen as one of the best middle order batsman in the IPL. Right-hand middle-order batsman Sharma has become famous for his athletic fielding and along with cool temperament to compliment his graceful stroke play, he is being hailed as the next big thing. His successes have met with frequent failures too but he has always made a good comeback and will be hoping that this IPL season comes as a change of fortune for him.
Ross Taylor: He made his debut for New Zealand in March 2006, and since then he has been regarded as one of the most dominating batsman in the circuit. He can really hit the ball long way and can change the shape of the match at any given point of time. He is a copybook batsman who has a special ability to mix offence with defence; the prime reason why he is so dangerous at the top of the order. Most of the franchises will surely be gunning for him as he is a real match-winner. Bangalore would surely rue not retaining him as his stunning 81 off 33 balls that took his side to an improbable win against the Kolkata Knight Riders in season 2 is still fresh in everyone's memory.
Brian Lara: Former West Indies great Brian Lara is all set to make his return in cricket. Every franchisee will surely go after signing this stylish left handed batsman. Though Lara hasn't played much competitive cricket ever since his retirement, there is little doubt he will give the bowlers some nightmares. And even though he hasn't played too much of T20 cricket, he's too good a cricketer to not be able to come to terms with the high-octane action of the IPL. And as the saying goes that class is permanent, surely he will be up for grabs by various franchisees.
Cheteshwar Pujara: The fast rising star from Saurashtra is one of the most sort out player in the current form. He has al the ability to be one of the hottest property in cricket. After proving in first-class cricket, he was picked by Kolkata Knight Riders, though he still has lots to prove ion shorter format of the game but his techniqoue and style of batting is just tailor made for this format of the game. He can be a real match winner and pivotal weapon in middle overs. He can up the ante with his batting style and at the same time can play a sheet anchor role for any team. A real player to look forward to.
Ambati Rayudu: ICL returnee Ambati Rayudu is a talent India failed to acknowledge when he was going great guns in domestic cricket a few years ago. But his stint in the IPL is sure to put the spotlight back on him. Rayudu had made a spectacular IPL debut with a match-winning half-century against Rajasthan Royals and he continued his good form with an important cameos. There should be loads of takers for this man but Mumbai Indians should give everything they have and try to buy this man again. He is a real match winner and on his day, he can give bowlers some hiding.
Manvinder Bisla: The Kings XI Punjab batsman made the cut to this list for standing tall amongst the ruins last time around. He was the lone local player from Punjab who was impressive in the third edition of the IPL. He looks a very dangerous prospect and has the ability to hit ball hard and a fair distance. He also has ability to play vital cameos that can change the course of the match. Bisla surely is the player who should get a check-in from many franchisee and for ssure he won't be that expensive as well. He will be a real gem for various franchisees.