Panaji:Star England players Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff on Friday emerged as the world's most expensive cricketers after being sold for a whopping $1.55 million (approx Rs 7.35 cr) in the Indian Premier League auction, surpassing Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who had fetched Rs six crore in the inaugural edition.
In an auction telecast live by most channels, it was Pietersen and Flintoff -- both former England captains - who were expectedly the most sought after exceeding their base prices by huge margins.
The hard-hitting Pietersen was bought by Bangalore Royal Challengers while Flintoff went to Chennai Super Kings at the auction, which had its share of glamour with Bollywood stars Preity Zinta, Shilpa Shetty and Juhi Chawla in attendance.
Bangalore Royal Challengers spent most of their total amount of $1.95 million on the highly talented Pietersen who had a base price of $1.35 million.
Flintoff, another former England captain, expectedly got a good bidding and will now feature in the same team as Dhoni who is the captain of Chennai Super Kings.
Flintoff and Pietersen, like all other English players, will be available for just 21 days for the second edition of the high-profile Twenty20 league although their contracts are for two years.
Upcoming South African batsman Jean Paul Duminy ($ 950,00), Bangladesh paceman Mashrafe Mortaza ($ 600,00), unheralded South African all-rounder Tyron Henderson ($650,000) triggered surprise bidding wars among the eight franchisees.
The likes of Duminy and Mortaza made a killing at the auction far exceeding their base prices.
In contrast, the Australians, struggling to hold on to their cricketing supremacy for the past few months, were a big flop with several of their players like pacer Stuart Clark, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and another fast bowler Ashley Noffke failing to attract any bids.
Among other players first to be auctioned, Australia's Shuan Tait was purchased by title holders of the inaugural edition Rajasthan Royals for $ 375,000 while upcoming South African batsman Jean Paul Duminy went to Mumbai Indians for $ 950,000.
The biggest surprise was bidding war over Bangladesh Mortaza, who despite a very modest base price of $ 50,000, was picked up for $ 600,000 by Kolkata Knight Riders.
The pacer was also sought by Kings XI Punjab which was engaged in the bidding war for almost half an hour.
Among the bargain buys, West Indian paceman Fidel Edwards was went for his base price of $ 150,000 to Deccan Chargers. England's Owais Shah and Paul Collingwood were bought by Delhi Daredevils for $ 275,000 each.
At the end of the auction, IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi told reporters that the price paid for Mortaza was a big surprise but he was very happy for the Bangladesh player.
"We were all very surprised, but I'm happy. Mortaza is a talented bowler," he said after the conclusion of the auction.
In all five Englishmen, three West Indians, two each from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Bangladesh, besides one from Sri Lanka were bought by the eight franchise teams
out of a 49-strong pool.
"The auction is over. Unspent money by the franchises at the auction becomes zero now. Some teams still have slots for replacements, Kolkata, Bangalore, Rajasthan Royals and Deccan
"They will have to purchase from the lot of 115 players in the list minus the 17 who have been bought. If two teams are interested in the same player they will have to negotiate," Modi said.
Owner of Bangalore Royal Challengers Vijay Mallya said he was always keen to get the services of Pietersen as he would add value to the team.
"I was always keen to get Pietersen. He would be a superb addition to the team. We had a list of players before the auction and KP topped that list. We needed to strengthen our batting and I was prepared to pay more for him," Mallya said.
"It is a worthwhile investment and ensure the balance that we wanted in our team", he said.
Henderson was bought by Rajasthan Royals for $ 650,000 (appr Rs 3.18 crore), a massive jump from his base price of $ 100,000.
England all-rounder Ravi Bopara was bought by Kings XI Punjab for $ 450,000 (appr Rs 2.20 crore), far beyond his base price of $ 150,000.
"We all had our objective and budget. We had alternatives in place. I was talking to Tom (Moody, the coach) and (captain) Yuvraj Singh who were involved in all the decisions taken," Kings XI co-owner Ness Wadia told reporters after the auction.
"We are looking forward to England players to play this time. There are lot of fans for England cricketers in this country," he said.
On whether the bought Australians would be available for the entire season, Modi was non-committal and said, "We are working on it (the Aussie players' availability for a large part of the IPL season)."
Australia are scheduled to play Pakistan in a Test and ODI series during the same period at a neutral venue like Dubai.
N Srinivasan, MD of India Cements which owns the Chennai Super Kings franchise and is also the Cricket Board's secretary, was also very pleased with his team's purchase of Flintoff even though he, like Pietersen, would be available to play in the April-May IPL for only three weeks.
"He's an outstanding all-rounder. We targeted Flintoff to improve our balance," Srinivasan said.