As auctioneer Richard Madley was about to bring down the hammer, Preity Zinta raised the paddle. An uneasy silence descended on the auction hall as Virender Sehwag’s name was announced, and suddenly there was an apprehension that the out of favour superstar might go unsold. Sehwag had set his base price in the highest bracket of Rs 2 crore and Kings XI Punjab saved him from a huge embarrassment. The initial bid was at his base value. Then Mumbai Indians joined the race but conceded it to Punjab who forked out Rs 3.2 crore. Discarded by the national selectors from all formats and not retained by his home franchise Delhi Daredevils, Sehwag badly needed an IPL contract to revive his flagging career. Punjab offered him a lifeline.
Yuvraj Singh, however, turned out to be a big hit among the franchises and Royal Challengers Bangalore picked him for a mind-boggling Rs 14 crore after a keen contest with Rajasthan Royals, Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders. In fact, the auction for him had to be re-opened despite the fact that Madley marked him as ‘sold’ for Rs 10 crore to Bangalore. Actually, he missed Kolkata’s bid. Bangalore, however, were hell bent on having the left-hander on board and had the last laugh.
“We are very, very happy to have Yuvraj. We’ve to keep on bidding because our captain was very keen on him. That extra Rs 4 crore was a bit unfortunate, but the auctioneer has the sole discretion. Everybody saw him look around the room before the hammer fell but he chose to continue. So life goes on,” franchise owner Vijay Mallya said. Yuvraj, however, won’t mind, because it made him the highest paid player of IPL 7. His inclusion also gave Bangalore more match-winning options with Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Kohli already on board.
Dinesh Karthik was snapped up by Delhi for Rs 12.5 crore. Eye brows were raised but the team management had a valid reason. “We needed an experienced and quality ‘keeper-batsman to strike the right balance,” bowling coach Eric Simons said. Kevin Pietersen was bought back by Delhi for Rs 9 crore through the Right to Match option. Sunrisers Hyderabad had offered the same amount but Delhi always wanted to take him back after he became available for the entire duration of the tournament.
On the first day of the auction, the Right to Match cards, which was introduced this season, was utilised eight times but in Jacques Kallis’s case, Kolkata made a mistake by placing a bid and then buying him back for Rs 5.5 crore through the Card option. Kolkata’s first bid of Rs 2.5 crore increased the value of the player who, otherwise, could have come cheaper to his home franchise.
The auction is being held against the backdrop of the Mudgal Committee report but the mood inside the ITC Royal Gardenia Hotel didn’t reflect sombreness. BCCI president N Srinivasan arrived at the stroke of lunch to a huge welcome from all Board members present and throughout the day, it was business as usual.
From a pool of 514 players, 219 went under the hammer on Wednesday and 70 were sold. Unlike last year, the franchises didn’t go for the spectacular and stuck to the tried and tested. Simons explained it when he said that the franchises basically “focused on the structure”.
Rajasthan Royals mentor Rahul Dravid said they put emphasis on the players’ ability to play spin bowling while buying a batsman or all-rounder. In Steve Smith, bought for Rs 4 crore, Rajasthan found the right candidate.
They also went a long way for Nathan Coulter-Nile before losing to Delhi, whose final bid was Rs 4.25 crore. This time also, the auction was reopened as Dravid insisted that he raised the paddle before the hammer fell.
Sri Lankan stars unsold
Interestingly, most of the Sri Lankan players went unsold and only Thisara Perera and Muttiah Muralitharan were taken, by Punjab and Bangalore respectively. The low interest, however, had nothing to do with the Sri Lanka Cricket not supporting the position paper in the ICC. Sri Lanka would be embarking on a tour of England in May and the non-availability of the players was the major issue. England players too, even Ian Bell, were ignored for this reason.
There were a few let downs as well. New Zealand’s Corey Anderson, who holds the world record for the fastest ODI hundred, was taken for just Rs 4.5 crore by Mumbai. Indian capped players, Praveen Kumar, S Badrinath, RP Singh, Munaf Patel and Manpreet Gony too went unsold. But the Pathan brothers, Irfan and Yusuf provided the biggest anti-climax.
Irfan got $1.9 million in 2011, while Yusuf pocketed $2.1 million. This time, they got Rs 2.4 crore ($400,000) and Rs 3.25 crore ($541,000) respectively as Hyderabad and Kolkata (through Rights to Match card) bought them.
Overall, the franchises went about their tasks methodically and all were happy at the end of the day.
Punjab had a distinct Australian colour as they roped in Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, George Bailey and Shaun Marsh for Rs 6.5 crore, Rs 6 crore, Rs 3.25 and Rs 2.2 crore respectively. Delhi bought in three Bengal players in Mohammed Shami, Manoj Tiwary and Laxmi Ratan Shukla.