BANGALORE: Australian all-rounder Shane Watson received the highest bid of $1.4 million while banished England star Kevin Pietersen was sold to a new franchise at a glitzy Indian Premier League auction Saturday.
Watson lived up to his billing as one of the most sought-after players, being sold to Royal Challengers Bangalore for 95 million rupees ($1.4 million) at an auction attended by top businessmen and former stars including ex-Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.
The 34-year-old Watson, who remains one of the top players in Twenty20 cricket, was sold for more than four times his reserve price in the first round of marquee bidding in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
“Incredibly excited to join (RCB). Can’t wait to meet up with my new team-mates in April,” Watson tweeted.
Pietersen was bought for $515,000 by Rising Pune Supergiants, one of the two new teams in this year’s tournament that will be played from April 9 to May 29 across various Indian cities.
The Gujarat Lions, based in the western city of Rajkot, is the other new entrant following the two-year suspension of the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings over a corruption scandal.
India’s Yuvraj Singh was sold to Sunrisers Hyderabad for $1.03 million, a far cry from the $2.3 million that he commanded at last year’s auction.
South Africa’s Chris Morris was picked for a surprise $1 million Saturday, 14 times his base price after the Mumbai Indians and Knight Riders went neck and neck, only for the Delhi Daredevils to grab him in the end.
Aaron Finch, Australia’s injured T20 captain, and in-form New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill went unsold.
South African speedster Dale Steyn was the last man to be auctioned in the first round at $500,000.
The IPL, boasting an enviable brand value with Bollywood stars and big businesses as investors, has however been dogged by controversies ever since its first edition in 2008.
The 2013 IPL season saw police launch legal proceedings against several officials and players from Rajasthan and Chennai franchises over a betting and spot-fixing scandal.
Both Chennai and Rajasthan are expected to return to the IPL after their bans end following the 2017 edition.