Adam Gilchrist has emerged as the possible $1 million man of the Indian Premier League, with Kolkata and Mohali set to enter into a fierce battle over his services in tomorrow's auction.
In a twist to the auction process, Indians Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh may combine to make Gilchrist the highest-paid Australian player to bolster their own pockets.
The IPL has nominated four "icon" players - team captains - who won't be up for auction: Ganguly (Kolkata), Yuvraj (Mohali), Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai) and Rahul Dravid (Bangalore). They will earn 15 per cent more than the highest-paid player at their club.
Ganguly, who said yesterday he would be bidding for Gilchrist, and Yuvraj, whose IPL coach is West Australian Tom Moody, stand to earn massive salaries if they isolate one player to place a huge bid, instead of spreading the $US5 million ($5.5m) cap evenly.
"He is definitely a guy we will look for," Ganguly told the Herald. The co-owner of Kolkata, Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, is also known to be keen on Gilchrist. "There are so many good players, and it also depends on the balance of the team," Ganguly said.
Unlike fellow "marquee" Australian players Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden, Gilchrist can fulfil the wicketkeeping role and bat at the top or in the middle of the order.
Gilchrist is also viewed as a true statesman of the game, and it will be as much for his character and status as his ability that bids will fly thick and fast for his signature.
Because teams are allowed to bid only once for each player during the auction, whichever team goes first is likely to put in a staggering offer to blow rivals out of the water.
Moody, who has had a lengthy association with Gilchrist at WA, said it was no secret Gilchrist would be highly sought after. "In the next couple of days I will be in discussions with the franchise owners and Yuvraj to get his thoughts and ideas," Moody said.
"During the auction, there is no communication allowed - so prep work has to be done prior to that. [Gilchrist] would be one that I would like to get. No question, he is an attractive package, given his quality as a player and his quality as a person.
"He is a guy that can help bring players together to function as a unit, and that is critical when you are forming a new team with different characters and nationalities. You need good, stable characters."
Sources said the highest-paid player at each franchise would earn between $US800,000-$US1m for the six-week tournament.
Other players likely to attract substantial bids are West Indian Chris Gayle, South African captain Graeme Smith and Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori - who is now ranked as the ICC's best one-day international bowler.
Moody said his priority remained with the WA team, meaning he could be forced to leave midway through the tournament to join the state side as it contests the ICC's Champions Twenty20 club trophy.
"I have the appropriate leave to take up this opportunity," he said. "I also see a personal benefit to me by gaining further knowledge and experience in the game in this new format. It will be an opportunity for me to bring new ideas to WA, so it is a win-win situation for all."
As of last night, it's believed only two Australian players had not signed up to the tournament, but were expected to do so by this morning.
Meanwhile, a co-founder of the IPL, Inderjit Singh Bindra, said the contractual disputes between the tournament organisers and Cricket Australia had merely been a ruse to create interest in the event.
Bindra said: "Unless there is some spice, the dish won't taste good. So now we have marinated it with Australian wine, and are using Indian spices, and it is smelling very nice. It will taste absolutely delicious."
In other news, speculation the Pakistan Cricket Board would today make a major announcement over Australia's proposed tour was denied by senior official Shafqat Naghmi.
Naghmi said the PCB was still awaiting CA's official decision on whether or not to tour.
While CA maintains it will wait until next week, when the picture becomes clearer after yesterday's elections in the Islamic republic, it is almost certain it will cancel the trip to Pakistan based on security advice.