Flambuoyant English batsman Kevin Pietersen and compatriot all rounder Andrew Flintoff will be the star attractions among 43 players who would go under hammer at the Indian Premier League's second season Players' Auction in Panaji on Friday.
Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke was tipped as another hot property at the auction until he made himself unavailable for the lucrative Twenty20 tournament for the second consecutive season, citing his attempt manage the workload in view of the busy international calender.
IPL Governing Council has set the stakes far higher this year for the marquee players with Pietersen's base price being $ 1,350,000 and Flintoff attracting $ 1,000,000. Clarke was also tagged $ 1,000,000.
The benchmark was set in IPL's inaugural year in 2008 when, in a stunning steal in the first round itself, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) purchased current India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for a staggering $ 1.5 million to set the tone for the rest of the high-profile proceedings held in Mumbai.
Dhoni's reserve price had been fixed at $ 400,000 and the CSK franchise bid almost four times that to bring into its fold one of the most exciting batsmen in world cricket.
The swashbuckling wicket keeper-batsman subsequently justified that top billing by leading the team to the final of the multi-million dollar prize money Twenty20 League.
With most of the top cricketers already in the kitbag of the eight respective franchises, who also have a reduced amount of money in hand, this year's auction is expected to be a little less frenetic.
Barring CSK, all the other franchises have an amount less than the cap of $ 2 million set by the IPL's Governing Council to spend at the auction, it was learned.
Mumbai Indians (MI) could be interested in the top cricketers but have to do with an available budget of $ 1.7 million to do their bidding.
The Sachin Tendulkar-led franchise had already spent $ 300,000 on West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo and thus have only a reduced amount in their kitty for the auction.
MI have also swapped with Delhi Daredevils Ashish Nehra for Shikhar Dhawan and with Bangalore's Royal Challengers Robin Uthappa for Zaheer Khan to bring in more balance to their team.
CSK and Punjab Kings Eleven seem to be interested in roping in Flintoff while Royal Challengers, who did not do well last season and finished seventh, are reportedly keen on picking up Pietersen to add meat to their batting. No England cricketer was in the list of players during the February 20 auction in 2008.
The Englishmen available for auction this year are: Pietersen, Flintoff, Paul Collingwood ($ 250,000), Luke Wright ($ 150,000), Owais Shah ($ 150,000), Ravi Bopara ($ 150,000) and Samit Patel ($ 100,000).
A total of 15 Australians, highest from any country, are to be auctioned off. The list includes well-known names like Stuart Clarke ($ 250,000), Shaun Tait ($ 250,000) and Phil Jacques ($ 100,000).
Incidentally, no player from Pakistan is in the auction list.