Kevin Pietersen will learn who he will be representing in this year's Indian Premier League after Wednesday's seventh IPL auction, the biggest and most dramatic yet, which will be held in Bangalore.
The eight IPL teams will be bidding for the 511 players up for auction, and Pietersen is the fourth lot on offer. Given that he has now been released from his international commitments for the foreseeable future, he can play the whole tournament rather than having to return early to face Sri Lanka with England. Thus, Pietersen should command one of the biggest prices, most likely between $2m (£1.21m) and $2.5m.
The auction will be conducted at 4am GMT – 9.30am in Bangalore, televised across India – by Englishman Richard Madley, formerly of Christie's and Antiques Roadshow. For the first time it will not be done in US dollars but in Indian rupees.
The eight sides start with a budget of 600m rupees, equivalent to roughly $10m, double the $5m limit back in 2008. Not all of that will be used at the auction, with some franchises having retained a few players from last season.
Chennai Super Kings, for example, only have 21m rupees ($3.5m) left, having already retained five players, including India captain M S Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin. Mumbai Indians have the same amount left, having retained five, as have Rajasthan Royals. Royal Challengers Bangalore have three big-name batsmen already, in Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and A B de Villiers, so have just 30m rupees ($5m) to spend.
The remaining teams, then, will fight over Pietersen, who is likely to be the highest priced player.
His fame is hugely important to sponsors in a competition where marketing and attention are so important, and his record is impressive – he has the second highest international T20 average of all time, and was man of the series at the 2010 World T20 which England won in the Caribbean. Combined with his seniority and his new availability for the whole tournament, it is easy to see why Pietersen will command the highest price.
The three likeliest destinations for him, according to suggestions in India, are Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab or Sunrisers Hyderabad. Pietersen was not retained by the Delhi coach Gary Kirsten last month but he is still popular there and they have their whole 60m rupees available.
Pietersen cost the Delhi Daredevils $2m when he signed for them in 2012, having initially joined the Royal Challengers Bangalore for $1.5m in 2009, and he is likely to go beyond those prices this time. Former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi even suggested he could cost between $2.5m and $3m, breaking Gautam Gambhir's record price of $2.4m from 2011.
For what it is worth, Pietersen's reserve price is 20m rupees ($300,000), as he is in the top bracket of players, but he will certainly far exceed that. The most expensive other players are likely to be India veterans Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, who have proven over the years just how effective they are in this format.
The first and third players up for auction are two all-time greats of the game: Mahela Jayawardene and Jacques Kallis. Kallis is now a one-day specialist having retired from Test cricket, unlike Pietersen, at a time of his choosing.
Of the 511 players up for auction, 424 are Indian – a remarkable 169 have been capped by India – with 47 capped and 37 uncapped foreigners. Squads must be between 16 and 27 players, with a maximum of nine overseas players, with just four overseas players allowed in an XI for a game. Every franchise must spend at least 36m rupees ($6m) on their squad.
There is English interest beyond Pietersen. Craig Kieswetter will be in the fourth batch of players up for auction, along with South African 21-year-old wicket-keeper Quinton De Kock and Australia's Matthew Wade. Ian Bell and Alex Hales, who have never played in IPL before, are up for auction, with Hales having – at 20m rupees – twice the reserve price of Bell.
Ravi Bopara, Luke Wright, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Samit Patel are also up for auction. Patel has the same reserve price as his Nottinghamshire team-mate Hales. Rikki Clarke, Jade Dernbach and 2005 Ashes veteran Simon Jones are also on the list.