Gambhir gets record $2.4mn; No takers for Ganguly, Lara, Swann (Night Lead)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

BANGALORE - In a roller-coaster ride of an Indian Premier League (IPL) auction here Saturday, Gautam Gambhir topped the list of moneybags with a record $2.4 million though unexpectedly there were no takers for former India and West Indies captains Sourav Ganguly and legendary Brian Lara.

It was a typical Twenty20 start to the auction with four teams trying to grab Gambhir, who led Delhi Daredevils last season, in a fierce battle.

Gambhir was at the base price of $200,000, but even before the auctioneer Richard Madley could finish calling his name hands went up in a mad scramble and continued for eight minutes.

Kochi, Pune, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders furiously challenged each other, Subroto Roy’s Pune Warriors making the first bid. Mumbai and Bangalore went up simultaneously while Kolkata joined the fray at $2 million and pitched in aggressively thereafter to snatch Gambhir.

Gambhir surpassed Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, who were bank-rolled by Bangalore and Chennai two years back for $1.5 million each.

Pietersen, who came as a star in the IPL second season, was valued at just $650,000 this time around by Deccan Chargers.

Gambhir led three others into the $2-million bracket, Yusuf Pathan (Kolkata Knight Riders, $2.1 million), Robin Uthappa (Pune Warriors, $2.1mn), Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians, $2mn) commanding whopping prices. Yousuf’s younger brother Irfan missed the $2-million mark as Delhi Daredevils got him for $1.9mn. Yuvaraj Singh (1.8mn) also came close to the big figure.

Among the overseas players, former Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawerdena was bought for $1.5mn by Kochi while Knight Riders successfully bid for South African veteran Jacques Kallis for $1.1mn. Speedster Dale Steyn $1.2mn went to Deccan Chargers after an intense battle.

Seated eight to a table at the over 7,000 sq ft pillar-less Mysore Hall of ITC Royal Gardenia Hotel here, were corporate honchos, Bollywood stars and cricket experts valuing players, some of them greats in their own rights.

Liqour baron Vijay Mallya, his son Siddharth and Anil Kumble were representing the Royal Challengers Bangalore team while Nita Ambani was at the forefront for Mumbai Indians’ bidding. Bollywood stars Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta were present for Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab, respectively. Shah Rukh Khan was conspicuous by his absence at the Kolkata Knight Riders huddle.

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh’s side, which had been among the bottom-placed teams in the first three editions of the IPL, made some smart buying to net Gambhir, big-hitter Yusuf and South African star Jacques Kallis ($1.1mn).

New team Kochi bid aggressively to get Brendon McCullum, home star Shantakumaran Sreesanth, R.P. Singh, Jayawardena, Parthiv Patel, Muttiah Muraliathan, and Brad Hodge. They have $2.08mn left in their kitty for the second day’s auction Sunday.

However, the unexpected twist in the tale came when Ganguly’s name was called and there was a hushed silence. Madley looked around to see at least one hand to go up and the cameras were focussed on the Knight Riders table. The think-tank’s heads went down and with it Ganguly’s name into the unsold basket, the first of the day.

Interestingly, Ganguly, who was the oldest Indian player up for auction at 38 years and six months, had increased his base price from $200,000 to $400,000, which is the highest bracket reserved for marquee players in the league.

Knight Riders were clearly not interested in Ganguly as he was not retained for this season.

It is speculated that the former India captain might still be part of the scheme of things of a new franchisee as player-cum-mentor like Shane Warne for Rajasthan Royals.

Another shocker came when Lara and Gayle joined Ganguly in the unsold category.

Lara, 41, drew a lot of interest with his participation in the IPL auction for the first time. He was the oldest player in the list. Lara base price was also $400,000.

The whims of the market forces also swept away the best spinner in world cricket — England’s Graeme Swann, a key member of the Ashes winning England team.

And to top it, leg-spinner Piyush Chawla commanded $900,000 from Kings XI Punjab.

For a time it looked as if V.V.S. Laxman, who had also increased his base price, would also go unsold, but new team Kochi thought it wise to take the renowned Test batsman for the base price of $400,000.

Rahul Dravid, who had his share of trouble with Royal Challengers Bangalore, fetched a slightly higher price than his base tag of $400,000 with Rajasthan Royals shelling out $500,000 for the former India captain.

Royal Challengers did not bid for Dravid.

Australian Andrew Symonds, who had retired from international cricket, was bought by Mumbai Indians for $850,000. Symonds will share the dressing room with Harbhajan Singh, one of the four players retained by Mumbai Indians. The two have been involved in some vicious on-field spats after Symonds accused the Indian off-spinner of racially abusing him in the controversial Sydney cricket Test.

New teams Pune Warriors and Kochi had some good catches. To match Kochi’s impressive list, Pune bought Yuvraj, Graeme Smith ($500,00) and Uthappa.

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