Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday said Kevin Pietersen's surprise axing from the national side has changed the dynamics of the upcoming IPL players' auction as his availability for the full season now makes the swashbuckling English batsman the most sought after player.
Pietersen's international career came to an abrupt end after he was left out of the country's upcoming tour of the West Indies and the subsequent World Twenty20 Championships in Bangladesh. (Read: Official statement from ECB on Pietersen's axing)
"Kevin Pietersen is such an awesome player that every franchise would like to have him in the team. A lot of teams would be looking for him and we are one of them," KXIP's head of cricket operations Anant Sarkaria told PTI. (Read: 'Kevin Pietersen, the maverick that England couldn't manage')
"The availability of English players for the whole duration of the IPL has always been a problem for most of the franchises. They have international commitments to fulfill. Pietersen's retirement changes the dynamics of auction. Now he will be available for full season. We are looking for a well-balanced team this season of the IPL," Sarkaria added.
IPL franchises have always been reluctant to select England players, knowing that they will not be available for the whole tournament.
Pietersen's sensational announcement is likely to attract eye balls from IPL franchises because of his popularity and his status as one of the world's most exciting Twenty20 batsmen.
Pietersen is among 10 England players who have put their names down for IPL auction, seeking a new franchise. He was not retained by Delhi Daredevils for the seventh edition of the league after DD opted not to retain any of their players from last season.
The middle-order batsman, who has featured in 104 Tests and 136 ODIs for England, has been listed at the highest base price of Rs 2 crore.
Another player on the wish-list of the Punjab franchise could be out-of-favour Indian batsman Yuvraj Singh, who is presently not part of any franchise after Pune Warriors were dissolved by the BCCI.
"Yuvraj is a Punjabi boy. We would love to have him back in the KXIP. There's always some kind of interest in Yuvi. But, having said that, we are looking at lot of other players at the auction. We are looking at good mix of foreign and Indian stars to build a strong team for the coming edition. It's precisely the reason behind retaining only two players (David Miller and Manan Vohra)," Sarkaria said.
Asked about coach Darren Lehmann, who would not be with the franchise this time around after Cricket Australia (CA) denied him the permission to take up the IPL assignment, Sarkaria said, "We knew he was trying a job with Cricket Australia. We were fully aware of it. We reached a mutual understanding and there was nothing like he was not allowed by the CA to take up the IPL job. Both of us reached a mutual understanding."
Lehmann took over the IPL side last year.
Sarkaria said India bowling coach Joe Dawes, who is also the bowling coach of the Punjab side, will be in charge of the team along with Sanjay Bangar, who is the assistant coach.
Asked about their strategy for players' auction, Sarkaria said, "We would be aiming to have a balanced side."