Recession? IPL II jumpstarts with multimillion dollar auction

February 6th, 2009 - 7:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Shah Rukh KhanPanaji, Feb 6 (IANS) All talk of economic slowdown and austerity was thrown out of the window Friday as India’s obsession cricket put on yet another grandiose display at the ‘Players’ Bazaar’ aka the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction ahead of the second edition of cricket’s latest innovation.There were plenty of Bollywood stars in attendance — Shilpa Shetty, the investor in Rajasthan Royals, Preity Zinta, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab, and Juhi Chawla, co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders with Shah Rukh Khan — at the Fort Aguada resort here.

Then there were flamboyant industrialists like Vijay Mallya, Ness Wadia, Raj Kundra and N. Srinivasan, who wears many hats ranging from ownership of Chennai Super Kings to being an official on Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and IPL committees to running India Cements. Yes, not to be missed was Nita Ambani for Mumbai Indians!

A total of 17 players were auctioned from among the 43 available players.

As somebody commented, there was less of cricketing quotient and more of glamour, but many of the players who came under the hammer were not complaining.

While a few pre-auction underdogs like Mashrafe Mortaza and Tyron Henderson were laughing their way to the bank, many others were left wondering if any cricketing yardsticks were applied when it came to some bids.

England’s superstars, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, who at best will be available for half the season, were ’sold’ for $1.55 million each, a handy $50,000 more expensive than India’s Captain Hero Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Ironically, Flintoff will play for Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings.

The flamboyant Pietersen, who recently was relieved of his English captaincy following his ‘me-or-the-coach’ controversy, was expectedly picked by the even-more flamboyant owner, Vijay Mallya.

Mallya then declared that the captaincy of his team, Bangalore Royal Challengers, was not a closed issue. That may not go down well with former India captain Rahul Dravid, who led the Bangalore side with little success last season.

Not escaping the attention of many cricket watchers will be the fact that Mallya also picked Jesse Ryder, the controversial Kiwi player who has time and again run foul of authorities for alcohol related problems. Pietersen-Mallya and Ryder with the strong and silent Dravid could provide the main side act for IPL II.

A little while after Mallya sought the man he had come for - he later declared he was willing to go right up to $2 million for Pietersen - bubbly Bollywood star Preity Zinta went head-to-head with Juhi Chawla, on the table for Kolkata Knight Riders which she co-owns with Shah Rukh Khan. The big beneficiary of this bidding war was little-known Mortaza, a Bangladeshi fast bowler, who went for $600,000 after being brought in at a base price of $50,000.

J.P. Duminy, who three months ago was not even on the West Indian horizon, went for $950,000 and he was picked by Mumbai Indians, represented at the table by tycoon Mukesh Ambani’s wife Nita.

Another surprise buy was Tyron Henderson, a 34-year-old South African, whose experience is mainly with Middlesex - he helped win the T20 Cup last year in England. After starting at a reserve price of $100,000, he came under the hammer for $650,000 and went to Rajasthan Royals.

Two other English stars, Owais Shah and Paul Collingwood, went to Delhi Daredevils at $275,000 each.

The teams have been allowed 10 overseas players this season, up from eight in the league’s first edition. A team could spend as much as $2 million for 2009, in addition to the $5 million they had last year.

A day before the auction when Australia’s Michael Clarke, one of the three with a reserved price in six figures, pulled out citing a busy schedule there was some talk of the auction being low-key, but when the gates opened, the horses were ready to bolt.

With the heady mix of cricket, Bollywood glamour and big money in full display, failure and low-key were the last words that came to mind.

The English will be here for the first time - Dmitri Mascarenhas did play last year though - and the Australians will be here only for the last stages. The South Africans will be away for a short period in between and the Pakistanis will stay at home to watch the show on TV and rue the miss in terms of big money.

IPL chairman Lalit Modi, as is his style had the last laugh, at least today, when he said: “Looking at the crowd today and the interest when Shilpa Shetty bought the stake in Rajasthan Royals, it is apparent that these games will attract crowds and will be a success.”

“The IPL,” he declared, “has defied the recession.”

The IPL runs from April 10 to May 29, with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals.

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