Bangalore:Opener Gautam Gambhir on Saturday became the costliest cricketer in the IPL by fetching a whopping USD 2.4 million (approx Rs 11.04 crore) on the first day of the auctions where Indian players proved to be the biggest draw with three others going for more than USD two million.
In a high-profile auction, where Bollywood stars and corporate bigwigs were locked in a bidding war, Kolkata Knight Riders bought Gambhir for the mind-boggling sum, beating the previous high set by the English duo of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff (USD 1.55 million) last season.
Shah Rukh Khan was not present in person but his Kolkata Knight Riders, which had been reduced to an also-ran in the last two seasons, proved to be the big spender of the day by also buying hard-hitting all-rounders Yusuf Pathan (Rs 9.66 crore) and Jacques Kallis (Rs 5.06 crore) for the fourth edition of event to be held from April 8 to May 20.
Gambhir, who was captain of the Delhi Daredevils last season, saw his price skyrocket 12 times from his base price of USD 200,000 (Rs 92 lakh) while three other Indian players - Yusuf (USD 2.1 million), Rohit Sharma (USD 2 million) and Robin Uthappa (2.1 million) crossed the two million mark.
Yusuf's younger brother Irfan, who has not played any cricket this season, was taken by Delhi Daredevils for a surprisingly high amount of USD 1.9 (Rs 8.74 crore) million.
But there were some surprise names in the unsold list with former India and KKR captain Sourav Ganguly, West Indies batting star Chris Gayle and the legendary Brian Lara failing to find a buyer.
There is still a slim chance of these players finding a team after their names come up again in the second round of bidding.
The bidding trend at the auction at times appeared to defy logic but what was certain was that the franchises were willing to spend big money on the Indian players. Mahela Jayawardene was the most expensive foreign player going to Kochi at USD 1.5 million (Rs 6.90 crore).
Cricket aside, Bollywood stars Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty provided the glamour quotient while liquor baron Vijay Mallya, his son Siddharth, Nita Ambani and Nusli Wadia added the corporate aura at the auction.
Cricketing brains such as Anil Kumble, Stephen Fleming, Geoff Lawson and Darren Lehmann, who have been roped in either as coaches or mentors by the franchises, helped them work out the bidding strategies.
As expected, big money was spent but the way it was spent on some players was baffling. Robin Uthappa, who has been out of national reckoning for quite some time, was bought for an astounding USD 2.1 million (Rs 9.66 crore) by Sahara Pune Warriors who opened their account by buying Yuvraj Singh for USD 1.8 million (Rs 8.28 crore approx).
Pune got Yuvraj, the icon player of Kings XI Punjab till last season, after beating Team Kochi and the batsman's former team in the bid.
Even Rohit Sharma's price of USD 2 million (Rs 9.2 crore), which Mumbai Indians paid, came as a surprise in an auction where proven T20 specialists such as Jesse Ryder, Herschelle Gibbs, Mark Boucher and Graeme Swann went unsold.
There was intense bidding for Gambhir, who was the first player under the hammer, from Pune and Mumbai before KKR joined the fray after it crossed the million dollar mark.
Kings XI Punjab also lost the bid of Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene who was bought by Kochi for USD 1.5 million.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore bought Zaheer Khan for USD 900,000 and dashing Lankan opener Tillakaratne Dilshan for USD 650,000.
However, the Vijay Mallya-owned franchise had a prize catch in talented South African AB de Villiers, buying him for USD 1.1 million (Rs 5.06 crore). They also got New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori for only USD 550,000.
The Rajasthan Royals bought New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor for USD 1 million (Rs 4.6 crore). But what turned out to be a surprise was South African off-spinner Johan Botha being bought after a lot of bidding for USD 950,000.
However, Kevin Pietersen, who was one of the most sought after players in the second and third edition, was bought by Deccan Chargers for USD 650,000 much less than his million dollar price in the earlier years.
Andrew Symonds, who was one of the costliest players during season one, was bought for USD 850,000 by Mumbai Indians.
After the first two rounds, Team Kochi had bought the maximum five players (Mahela Jayawardene, Brendon McCullum, VVS Laxman, S Sreesanth and Rudra Pratap Singh).
Kochi were quite lucky to buy McCullum for as low a price as USD 475,000 considering his reputation as a T20 dasher.
Sahara Pune Warriors were also a gainer as they got South African captain Graeme Smith for USD 500,000 only.
Kings XI Punjab who lost all their key players including the Lankan duo of Kumar Sangakkara (bought by Deccan Chargers for USD 650,000) and Jayawardene (USD 1.5 million for Kochi) and Yuvraj to Pune finally had something to cheer when they successfully bid for former Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist for USD 900,000.
After the lunch break, there were some more surprises with the young Saurabh Tiwary bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore for USD 1.6 million (Rs 7.36 crore). Punjab also spent USD 1.4 million (approx Rs 6.34 crore) on Australian David Hussey.
South African speedster Dale Steyn, who made life difficult for Indian batsmen during the recent drawn Test series, was bought by Deccan Chargers for USD 1.2 million (Rs 5.5 crore).
Australia's injury-plagued speedster Brett Lee went for his base price of USD 400,000 to Kolkata after failing to invite a bid for quite a while in the auction.
South Africans were hot picks at the auction with Steyn's pace partner Morne Morkel going to Delhi at USD 475,000.
The run-up to the auction was marred by legal wrangling between the BCCI and two franchise -- Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab -- both of whom were initially booted out of the event over ownership issues before coming back through court orders.