Mortaza emerges a dark horse in IPL auction (Lead)

February 6th, 2009 - 5:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Shah Rukh KhanPanaji, Feb 6 (IANS) By the time the final round of auction of players for the Indian Premier League (IPL) wound up here Friday, the name of relatively low-profile Bangladesh bowler Mashrafe Mortaza was on everybody’s lips.The bowler-who-can-bat, a dark horse from Bangladesh, a country that gave the concept of innovative micro-credit to the world, was sold for a whopping $600,000 to Shah Rukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders after an intense bidding, and the longest in the auction of players, with Kings XI Punjab.

Mortaza virtually stole the thunder from the two highest paid cricketers, Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pieterson who were sold for a record $1.55 million each to Chennai Super Kings and Bangalore Royal Challengers, respectively.

Mortaza’s base price was $50,000 and Knight Riders were the first to take the call before Kings XI co-owner Preity Zinta pitched in aggressively in what turned out to be a virtual war between two Bollywood stars that continued for 20 minutes.

Actress Juhi Chawla, co-owner of Knight Riders, piloted the bid in the absence of Shah Rukh.

Mortaza has now become the highest paid Bangladeshi cricketer. The 25-year-old, who hails from Jessore, is the spearhead of Bangladesh bowling and has 135 wickets from 103 ODIs.

The strategy behind buying Mortaza was to increase the catchment area of Kolkata Knight Riders to neighbouring areas like Bangladesh.

“We were very sure of what we want. He is a good allrounder. It was part of our strategy to bid for him. Even Mumbai Indians at one point looked interested to join the race,” Joy Bhattacharya, team director of the Knight Riders, told reporters after snapping up Mortaza for more than 12 times his base price of $50,000.

When asked, if the Knight Riders were planning to play some warm up matches in Bangladesh, now that they had Mortaza in their kitty, Bhattacharya said there were no specific plans, but at the same time did not rule out the option.

Mortaza, has played nine Twenty20 international matches, scoring 90 runs at a strike rate of 105.88 and has notched six wickets at an average of 51.5.

Even IPL commissioner Lalit Modi was surprised at the deal Mortaza got.

“He is a talented bowler, but we were all surprised by this. It’s a great thing to happen,” Modi said.

Kings XI Punjab’s co-owner Ness Wadia was disappointed and said that the Bangladeshi was high on their shopping list.

“It all looks like fun. But finally at the end of the day it is just business. A lot of thought goes into bidding for players,” Ness said, adding that the wish-list was drawn up after an intense brainstorming with both captain Yuvraj Singh and coach Tom Moody.

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