NEW DELHI – Many of the world's top cricketers will be sold to the highest bidder when the Indian Premier League holds its annual auction on Saturday and Sunday.
Here are five players who can expect to hit it rich when the eight teams in the Twenty20 tournament place their bids in Bangalore:
Ben Stokes (England)
Rising Pune Supergiant bought the troubled England all-rounder last year for a record $2.16 million. Stokes now faces a looming court case over a brawl in England, but IPL sides are still keen to sign the star who played a key role as Pune finished runners-up in 2017. The 26-year-old paceman and left-hand batsman is in the top bracket, with a base price of $312,500. "He is an invaluable asset and a prize pick, there is no debate about that," Delhi Daredevils chief executive Hemant Dua told AFP.
Chris Gayle (West Indies)
A top choice for any T20 team around the world, Chris Gayle is again expected to be at the centre of a bidding war among IPL franchises. The explosive West Indies opener was not retained by Royal Challengers Bangalore for the new season, giving other teams a chance to bag him. The left-hander, who has scored tons in almost every T20 league across the world, leads a West Indies contingent also featuring Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. The self-proclaimed 'Universe Boss' was brought in as a replacement for Dirk Nannes in the 2011 edition and has since become one of the most powerful IPL performers.
Mitchell Starc (Australia)
The fastest bowler in Test cricket has already put his searing deliveries to good use in the IPL, even though the pitches normally favour slow bowlers and batsmen. Starc made his presence felt in 2014 and 2015 with Royal Challengers Bangalore, Starc missed 2016 through injury and then decided not to come to India last year. Starc will challenge Steve Smith and David Warner -- who were retained by their teams for $1.9 m each -- to become Australia's highest-paid IPL player.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
Afghanistan's rise as a cricketing nation has been synonymous with the success of sensational leg-spinner Rashid Khan. The teenager became an overnight star in his war-ravaged country last year when was signed by Sunrisers Hyderabad for $625,000. Khan justified the price by taking 17 wickets in 14 matches at an impressive economy rate of 6.6 per over. Khan, who was named associate nation player of the year by the International Cricket Council, could be headed for another big pay day in a year when Afghanistan are slated to play their first-ever Test -- against India in Bangalore in June, just after the IPL finishes.
Prithvi Shaw (India)
Crowded among India's big stars, under-19 national captain Prithvi Shaw could be the bargain pick of the auction. Put in the uncapped player category with a starting price of $3,125, the prolific batsman from Mumbai is being compared to the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. "Prithvi Shaw has only just turned 18, but already has more cricket experience than many aspiring young players will have in their whole career," said a recent ICC tweet.