Every year, the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction ensures that the fortunes of a few unheralded names and young prospects change in the matter of minutes. It will be no different at the mini auction in Dubai on Tuesday, one of the primary reasons that this annual exercise makes for a compelling watch. Even as frenetic bidding for these players leaves many of us scouring for more information about their backgrounds, the franchises themselves have assembled vast scouting teams to research extensively about them before raising the paddle. All ten teams are likely to know the ins and outs of every player available, for auction dynamics imply that they won’t always get their preferred picks.

As the IPL has evolved into a more mature product, teams have realised the need to scout the lesser-known domestic players going into an auction

As the IPL has evolved into a more mature product, teams have realised the need to scout the lesser-known domestic players going into an auction. While the top international stars are known about and will invariably fetch big bucks, it’s the domestic picks that can often help a franchise steal a march over its competitors in the grand scheme of things. Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah, the key architects of Mumbai Indians’ success over the past decade, are the most shining examples of the benefit that a robust scouting network can bring.

While preparations go into overdrive once the list of players available at the auction is known, players are now monitored round the clock. For the auction on Tuesday, the final list of players was announced on December 11.

“It is only when the final list of players going into the auction is out that franchises start seriously discussing the possible names they should go for. Before that, there is obviously planning, and scouts are monitoring performances through the year these days,” Chennai Super Kings (CSK) CEO Kasi Viswanathan said.

In the weeks leading up to an auction, scores of domestic players are called up by several franchises to attend trials. They are given specific situations and may tend to view these as do-or-die situations in their desire to get an IPL gig. How do the franchises perceive these trials?

“Trials can only be an indicator. It is scores in the different tournaments that guide the decision-making of the franchises,” Viswanathan said.

Delhi Capitals performance analyst Sriram Somayajula emphasised the importance of domestic cricket in a franchise’s assessment of potential picks. It must be reassuring to India’s domestic cricketers that their performances in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament and the Vijay Hazare Trophy — India’s premier T20 and 50-over tournaments respectively — still count.

“The feeder for any IPL team is firstly domestic cricket because your Indian talent pool is very important. You have the Syed Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare Trophy, and you need to look at how players perform in such tournaments because that’s where the cream of the domestic talent plays. So, we scout from these tournaments basically,” said Sriram, who has been working with the Delhi franchise for the past seven seasons. “There are so many factors when it comes to choosing a player. Someone may have the cricketing skills but if he’s horrible with his attitude, there’s no point looking at him. We monitor the progression of a player all round the year.”

Trials don’t seem to determine his judgment of players either. “For me, trials are eyewash. The real information that you gather about the players comes from match situations. In trials, you put players in match scenarios but there’s no pressure on them. A match is when you identify how players battle on the field and absorb pressure as opposed to a trial where you may get out twice and go on to hit a couple of sixes. Trials aren’t something I will really see,” he said.

Sriram said teams have begun to scout for net bowlers as well. “Effectively, you should have 4-5 options for every slot that you are going to pick in the auction. Teams want a higher quality of training and if these net bowlers do well in practice, there’s a chance that they will be picked in case of injury to someone else,” he said.

Among the uncapped players expected to do well at the auction by various franchises, Tamil Nadu’s M Shahrukh Khan, Vidarbha’s Shubham Dubey, Maharashtra’s Arshin Kulkarni, Mumbai’s Musheer Khan, Delhi’s Hrithik Shokeen and Uttar Pradesh’s Sameer Rizvi feature prominently. While Shahrukh and Shokeen have IPL experience, Dubey is a 29-year-old left-hand batter who smashed an unbeaten 58 off 20 balls for Vidarbha in a chase of 213 against Bengal in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament. Kulkarni and Musheer are part of India’s U-19 squad for the U-19 World Cup in South Africa next month. Rizvi is a clean striker of the ball in the middle order. The names of Jharkhand wicketkeeper-batter Kumar Kushagra, 19, and Uttar Pradesh batter Swastik Chikara are also doing the rounds.

By the time the auction concludes on Tuesday, we may know a lot more about some of these players.

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