2018 IPL auction: Joe Root and Ben Stokes headline England players

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IPL: Players to go for millions at 'biggest ever' auction

It's back.

The Indian Premier League changed the face of cricket in 2008 and returns for its 11th edition - and is set to be bigger than ever.

Last year's event saw television viewership of over 1.25bn in the host country alone, while broadcaster Star India paid a staggering £1.97bn in September for global TV and digital rights on a five-year deal.

The razzmatazz starts this weekend with the auction, including 24 England players, but which names should we look out for and how much will they cost?

Here is all you need to know about this year's auction and the IPL itself - which begins on 7 April.

Root makes auction debut

Joe Root and Ben Stokes
Joe Root and Ben Stokes are the top priced England players

England captain Joe Root will be in auction for the first time and - alongside England team-mate Ben Stokes - is one of 16 'marquee' players. His reserve price has been listed as 15m rupees (£170,000), but is likely to be bought for a lot more than that figure.

"The IPL is a great opportunity," said Root. "It may be that I don't have a great IPL but the best thing would be the exposure to different players and different ways of looking at the game, being under pressure for long periods of time.

"I can't see how that could hamper my game or be detrimental to my England career."

What about the other England players?

England all-rounder Ben Stokes is up for grabs again, this time for 20m rupees (£223,000).

Last year he went for a record £1.7m to Rising Pune Supergiant - the top-priced overseas player in the competition's history - and he claimed the most valuable player award.

The 26-year-old is due to appear at Bristol Magistrates' Court on 13 February charged with affray after an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September, but has been given permission by the ECB to continue playing cricket while he waits for his court case.

Eight players who had represented England were signed up last year, but this year every member of the England side involved in the first matches of the current one-day series in Australia are in the auction.

Of those, limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan, Chris Woakes, David Willey and Liam Plunkett all have a base rate of 20m rupees.

Another name of interest is West Indies-born all-rounder Jofra Archer. The 22-year-old Sussex player is also in the auction and wants to play international cricket for England.

ESPNcricinfo's Mel Farrell told BBC Radio 5 live: "He has created some incredibly exciting moments which have gone viral, including a caught and bowled and an incredible runout. He has grabbed all the headlines, burst onto the scene in the Big Bash and been one of the stars."

Which of the stars will shine?

Mumbai Indians
Mumbai Indians are the reigning IPL champions

The full list of marquee players include:

India: Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis.

West Indies: Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo.

Australia: Mitchell Starc, Glenn Maxwell.

England: Ben Stokes, Joe Root.

Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson.

The eight teams competing are: Mumbai Indians (champions in 2017, 2015, 2013), Kolkata Knight Riders (2014, 2012), Chennai Super Kings (2011, 2010), Sunrisers Hyderabad (2016), Rajasthan Royals (2008), Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Chennai and Rajasthan return to action after serving two-year bans for their involvement in an illegal betting and match-fixing scandal. The Gujarat Lions and last year's beaten finalists Rising Pune Supergiant miss out.

Mumbai beat Pune by one run in last year's thrilling final.

'Searching for the jewels'

IPL cheerleaders
IPL matches often see packed, boisterous crowds and colourful outfits off the field

BBC Asian Network's Ankur Desai

When you speak to young cricket mad children in India, their eyes light up, dreaming someday of competing alongside and against the best cricketers in the world.

The IPL has the pulling power and status as top dog when it comes to franchise T20 cricket.

Watching duels between international team-mates has become must see viewing, whether it is Mitchell Starc bowling at Steve Smith or Virat Kohli coming up against Ravi Ashwin. Maybe this year we will see Ben Stokes up against good friend Joe Root.

For the teams - they start planning months in advance - a scouting network to find the best specialist players from around the country. If a player has shown potential in a local game somewhere in rural India - chances are, a franchise will know about it thanks to a deeper network of scouts.

It's about judging their skill levels as well as their capacity to cope with a pressure match situation where they may be fighting to win a game in front of thousands of screaming fans, in addition to a global audience of millions.

Every team is looking for that bargain player, who costs nothing in the auction, but ends up becoming a jewel in the crown. Analytics have become huge and the backroom staff is often as large if not larger than the squad - from physios, to specialist coaches, no stone is left unturned.

With so many players available for auction this year, the teams will have to be savvy with their budgets. Go big on the marquee names and hope they deliver and produce match-winning performances. Or if they spread their wealth evenly - find a bunch of players who perform better collectively. The Royal Challengers Bangalore have been guilty of the former, choosing superstars like Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers to play alongside Indian superstar Virat Kohli, yet never winning the trophy.

Fans have their allegiances for sure - especially if they live in the state or city of a particular franchise. The demographic has changed over the past decade with families coming to watch games, groups of girls enjoying a night out at an IPL game - it has become quite the social occasion.

How does the auction work?

The bidding process will take place on Saturday and Sunday in Bengaluru and will be broadcast live on Indian TV channel Star Sports.

A total of 578 players are available for purchase by the eight franchises, with reserve prices ranging from 2m rupees (£22,300) to 20m rupees (£223,000).

There is no restriction on the amount players can be bought for at the auction within each franchise's budget of 800m rupees (£8.84m) - minus the cost of any retained players.

Eighteen players have already been retained by the teams, including India captain Kohli, former skipper MS Dhoni and South Africa batsman De Villiers.

Australia opener David Warner, who was last year's highest run-scorer with 641 in 14 matches, and India seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the highest wicket-taker with 26, have both been retained by Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Teams are allowed a maximum of eight overseas players in their squads, with only four of those being available for selection in a match.

"A lot of strategising and number-crunching is involved before a cricketer is picked at auction. The dynamic nature of the auction makes it unpredictable and exciting," said IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla.

"The marquee list is full of star players, but I am also looking forward to the uncapped Indian players who have proved their mettle in the earlier editions of the IPL and are sure to attract high bids."

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