It’s a record!

Big bidder... Bangalore Royal Challengers owner Vijay Mallya (left) with the IPL chairman Lalit Modi at the auction in Goa.-AP Big bidder... Bangalore Royal Challengers owner Vijay Mallya (left) with the IPL chairman Lalit Modi at the auction in Goa.

England’s deposed skipper Kevin Pietersen and all-rounder Andrew Flintoff caused a temblor at the IPL auction, each going for a whopping $ 1.55 million. G. Viswanath reports.

India’s famous holiday destination, Goa, gave England’s cricketers, set to play in the DLF Indian Premier League’s second summer show, a good deal. Annoyed with the ECB mandarins at Lord’s for dilly-dallying for several months before granting a three-week window for playing in the IPL, beginning April 10, five England players — Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, Ravi Bopara, Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah — found their way into the Twenty20 thrash event that was by all accounts a roaring success last year. The IPL auction in Goa turned out to be a jackpot for Pietersen, the former England captain and a remarkable entertainer with the bat, and Flintoff, an all-rounder par excellence.

A few franchises tested the waters at the bidding and left mid-way, allowing corporate honcho and showman Vijay Mallya to pick Pietersen for $ 1.55 million and N. Srinivasan to bolster his team, Chennai Super Kings, with Flintoff for an identical sum of $ 1.55 million. Collingwood and Shah, both picked up by Delhi Daredevils, paled in comparison, each going at $ 275,000 — a pittance. But Kings XI Punjab’s Preity Zinta showed gusto at the eleventh hour to bring to an end a heated price-war for Bopara with an offer of $ 450,000.

Luke Wright, a bright cricketer, and Samit Patel, an all-rounder with some potential, remained unsold like the 17 Australians, who would regard the auction at the Taj Resort at Fort Aguada a calamity.

Shane Warne made sure that fast bowler Shaun Tait would wear the blue colours of the Jaipur outfit, Rajasthan Royals. Chennai Super Kings, unsure of the number of matches Michael Hussey would be able to play, freeing himself from commitments to Australia, filled its third slot with George Bailey.

Mumbai Indians, at the express wish of Sachin Tendulkar, chose Jean-Paul Duminy for $ 950,000, while Rajasthan Royals went all the way with another South African Tyron Henderson. Bangladesh’s Mashrafe Bin Mortaza’s bidding was brought to a finish by John Buchanan of Kolkata Knight Riders for a sum of $ 600,000.

The star cast outside the media room had regulars such as Lalit Modi, Chairman and Commissioner of IPL, Vijay Mallya, Ness Wadia, Preity Zinta and a newcomer, Shilpa Shetty. Nita Ambani of Mumbai Indians and Juhi Chawla of Kolkata Knight Riders were business-like and preferred to stay put inside the auction room.

The franchises arrived in Goa with a total sum of $ 13.59 million to buy 17 players from a list of 49. Most of them refrained from going on an overdrive, preferring to hold on to the money to meet the running costs of the teams for the 14 home and away matches. They were thrifty and saved a little over $ 6 million — which proved that it was all wishful thinking that they have not been hit hard by the economic downturn.

By being extremely cautious the franchises not only saved up money for this season, but also for the third year in 2010 after which the IPL governing council and the eight franchises would mull over the new guidelines for the recruitment of players. Currently, the players either have a three-year or two-year contracts up to 2010. After the completion of the bidding process for the franchise ownership last year it was believed that they would break even by the third year, leading to the black bottom line from the fourth year onwards. The situation has changed now.

Bangalore Royal Challengers, Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals will be left with money even after buying replacements for the Pakistan players, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Kamran Akmal.

Mashrafe Bin Mortaza... going for a fantastic price of $ 600,000.-AP

Deccan Holdings spent only one-fourth of the $ 1.9 m it was allowed to. Clearly it could have bid for Pietersen, Flintoff and Duminy, but it refrained from doing so. Instead the Hyderabad franchise opted for the West Indian pacemen, Fidel Edwards and Dwayne Smith. Similarly, Buchanan was clearly on the look out for someone to replace Umar Gul (the contracts of Shoaib Akhtar, Salman Butt and Mohammad Wasim have been terminated) and he chose Mortaza. Rajasthan Royals, hit by the absence of Tanvir and Shane Watson, played smart by picking up Tait and all-rounder Henderson.

The Reliance Industries has a long term plan; though it did not get Flintoff — the English all-rounder was reportedly keen on playing for Mumbai Indians — the Mumbai franchise had to somehow fill the void caused by Shaun Pollock. It picked Kyle Mills apart from Duminy and Mohammad Ashraful.

Chennai Super Kings targeted Flintoff, while Royal Challengers sought Pietersen for good reasons.

Wadia and Zinta enjoyed the auction, picking Bopara. This forced Kolkata Knight Riders to spend virtually half its budget of $ 1.21 million on Mortaza. Incidentally, the bid for the Bangladeshi seamer and his closing price triggered a litany of jokes — he must have fainted in Dhaka said some, while many others contended that he can now buy out the Bangladesh Cricket Board! Mortaza’s reserve price was $ 50,000.