Bengaluru: England all-rounder Ben Stokes became the most expensive overseas buy ever, going to Rising Pune Supergiants (RPS) for a whopping Rs 14.50 crore, even as some unheralded Indian domestic players trumped seasoned names to land lucrative deals at the Indian Premier League (IPL) player auction, in Bengaluru on Monday.
The second biggest buy at the auction on Monday was also an England player, left-arm fast bowler Tymal Mills, who was taken by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for a mind-boggling Rs 12 crore.
Eight franchises collectively spent Rs 91.15 crore to buy 66 players from a pool of 351 that went under the hammer. The accent was clearly on Indian players with as many as 39 of them bagging contracts while 27 overseas players came into the franchises' roster.
Also making a splash were young Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan Arman, who stunned one and all by getting a Rs 4 crore ($600,000) bid from Sunrisers Hyderabad, and spin-bowling all-rounder Mohammad Nabi, also going to SRH. The duo will be the first set of Afghan players to take part in the lucrative league.
The uncapped Indian players had a field day too with little-known Tamil Nadu left-arm seamer T Natarajan going for Rs 3 crore ($448,000) to Kings XI Punjab, a 30-fold hike over his base price of Rs 10 lakh.
Hyderabad pacer Mohammed Siraj got a deal of Rs 2.6 crore from his local franchise -- the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Rajasthan's left-arm pacer Aniket Chaudhary, who has been a net bowler with the Indian Test squad for some time, also bagged a cool Rs 2 crore ($298,000) deal from RCB.
Karnataka's young off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham got a Rs 2 crore ($298,000) winning bid from Mumbai Indians.
India discard Varun Aaron fetched Rs 2.8 crore ($418,000) from Kings XI Punjab while leg-spinner Karn Sharma was bought for Rs 3.2 crore ($477,000) from Mumbai Indians.
For left-arm spinner Pawan Negi, it was another hefty pay day as he bagged a Rs 1 crore deal from RCB starting at a base price of Rs 30 lakh.
It was definitely much less than last year when Negi's Rs 8.5 crore deal with Delhi Daredevils had surprised one and all. But being an Indian player proved to be his advantage.
For senior Test players like Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, it turned out to be an embarrassment as both went unsold at their base prices of Rs 50 lakh and Rs 2 crore respectively. Irfan Pathan also went unsold at his Rs 50 lakh base price.
Among the prominent international players, who failed to find takers, was South African spinner Imran Tahir, currently ranked No 1 in the ICC list for ODI and T20 bowlers.
The day certainly turned out to be a good one for the England players with Stokes hogging the limelight but Mills wasn't far behind either.
Both Stokes and Mills entered the million-dollar bracket with the former fetching $2.16 million and the latter going for $1.8 million.
Even Chris Woakes, with Rs 4.2 crore ($627,000) deal from KKR, had a good day. Hard-hitting Jason Roy, after going unsold in the first round of bidding, was picked up during the second round by Gujarat Lions at a base price of Rs 1 crore.
Pune owner Sanjeev Goenka made it clear that they knew Stokes would go for a big price and they are also prepared for the fact that he will not be available to play the full tournament.
"We knew he was going to be expensive. We do believe he is going to be there for the first 14 games and right now we are focussing on first 14, and we are very happy with this. We pretty much knew, we are not going to get him below this price," Goenka told reporters in Bengaluru.
Goenka's Pune Supergiants, who on Sunday removed Mahendra Singh Dhoni from captaincy, entered late into the bidding at Rs 13 crore and clinched the deal at Rs 14.50 crore defeating bids from Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Interestingly, Stokes' limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan was taken at a base price of Rs 2 crore ($298,000) by Kings XI Punjab (KXIP).
With capable seam bowling all-rounders coming at a premium, Stokes was in the wish-list of five franchises, who engaged in tough bidding for the player, who is now revered as the world's top all-rounder.
The 25-year-old, who hasn't played franchise cricket till date, has a career strike rate of 134-plus while batting and a moderate bowling economy rate of 8.60 in 77 matches.
Mills, on the other hand, has played 55 Twenty20 matches, fetching 63 wickets with a reasonably good economy rate of 7.47.
Asked whether Pune skipper Steven Smith was consulted in bidding for Stokes, Goenka said everyone including Stephen Fleming have been a part of the decision.
"Steven Smith and Stephen Fleming, everyone has been a part of this decision. This is a very collective and collaborative decision. We actually didn't go for individuals. We looked at the spots and gaps to fill and we did exactly that.
"We needed this kind of an all-rounder in our team. We are reinforcing our core, our playing XI and you would see the rest of the strategy as the day unfolds," Goenka explained.
The first round of bidding for Stokes saw Mumbai, Delhi and RCB match each other till it reached Rs 10.50 crore after which the Reliance-owned franchise pulled out.
Delhi and Bangalore continued to bid before Sunrisers entered the fray. But just when it looked that Stokes would go for around Rs 12.5 crore, Pune entered the fray and clinched the deal.