5 Big Bash League Stars Who Could Land 2014 IPL Contracts
With the lucrative Indian Premier League auction looming, the ongoing Big Bash League in Australia is once again becoming an important training ground for the future stars of Twenty20 cricket.
While domestic competitions such as these were once seen as rather trivial affairs, the riches available on offer in India have ensured that performances in competitions such as the Big Bash are suddenly taken extremely seriously.
On the back of Glenn Maxwell's surprising $1 million contract with the Mumbai Indians in last year's auction, players are now well aware that only a couple of spectacular performances separate themselves and extravagant wages.
Across the following slides, we examine some of the candidates who could be in line to earn their first major IPL contract in 2014.
Big Bash Team: Hobart Hurricanes
Key Stat: 231 runs at strike rate of 150.00
The Hobart Hurricanes' keeper-batsman Ben Dunk is among the fresh faces leading the charge for their first IPL contract.
The left-hander currently sits fourth on the Big Bash League's run-scoring charts, thanks largely to a spectacular 96 from just 54 balls against the Sydney Thunder, the competition's highest individual score.
The 26-year-old also hammered a rapid 67 against the Brisbane Heat in his first innings of the tournament, which included five fours and four towering sixes.
Limited-overs teams have been fond of explosive keeper-batsmen at the top of an innings since the rise of players such as Adam Gilchrist and Romesh Kaluwitharana in the 1990s, which should mean Dunk is capable of landing his first lucrative contract.
Big Bash Team: Brisbane Heat
Key Stat: 5 wickets at 11.40 with economy rate of 6.57
Mark Steketee is a player who has rapidly emerged from suburban grade cricket in Brisbane to become one of the most promising prospects in the Big Bash League.
Although the 19-year-old doesn't have a first-class match to his name, he's been impressive in his three matches with the Heat thus far, claiming a wicket on his debut before grabbing two scalps in each of his last two appearances.
While IPL franchises may be reluctant to part with substantial sums for a relative unknown, the right-armer has positioned himself nicely through a combination of accuracy and good pace.
In fact, his economy rate is the 13th best mark in the competition among bowlers who have completed at least eight overs.
Big Bash Team: Melbourne Renegades
Key Stat: 130 runs at a strike rate of 151.16
Jos Buttler's limited-overs credentials have been known for some time now, and in 2014, he looks likely to secure a coveted IPL contract.
Although the keeper-batsman is currently a part of the England ODI and Twenty20 setups, he's unlikely to push for Test selection over the next 12 months.
Consequently, the need to return to county cricket may not be as strong for Buttler as it is for other English players, leaving the explosive hitter with the chance to shine in India.
Already in the Big Bash he's proved his worth, thumping his runs at a colossal strike rate, which has seen the 23-year-old send one in every four deliveries he's faced to—or over—the boundary.
Big Bash Team: Brisbane Heat
Key Stat: 94 runs at a strike rate of 195.83
Yes, that strike rate figure is correct.
From just 48 balls in the tournament, Ben Cutting has clubbed 10 sixes; the best ratio of anyone in the Big Bash League.
So, it's perhaps a touch surprising that Cutting is known more for his bowling than he is for his work with the bat in hand.
Since leading the Sheffield Shield wickets list in 2009-10, Cutting has been regarded as an international player of the future. Through a combination of pace, steep bounce and quick lower-order runs, the 26-year-old has built a reputation as an incredibly talented and versatile performer.
Although his bowling has been on the expensive side in this year's Big Bash, his abilities in both disciplines should make him an enticing prospect for several IPL sides.
Big Bash Team: Adelaide Strikers
Key Stat: 109 runs at strike rate of 173.01
It's a certainty that Alex Hales will earn a lucrative IPL contract in 2014, given that he's the world's No. 1 ranked Twenty20 batsman.
Having been prevented from competing in last year's tournament by Nottinghamshire, the brutal right-hander has now secured a long-term contract with Notts that will allow him to compete in cricket's richest competition.
After starring in last year's Big Bash, Hales is at it again this year, sending every third delivery he faces racing to the fence.
Something in excess of $500,000 now likely awaits the Englishman.