Flamboyant all-rounder Yuvraj Singh was the surprise recipient of a windfall at the IPL players' auction, fetching a record bid of Rs 14 crore from the Royal Challengers Bangalore while Dinesh Karthik also clinched a mind-boggling Rs 12.5 crore purse from Delhi Daredevils in Bangalore on Wednesday. (Read: Yuvraj's prayers answered - World T20 spot and now an IPL jackpot)
Both Yuvraj and Karthik, who are not even regular members of the Indian team, triggered stunning bidding wars among the franchises to set a new record in earnings in the cash-rich league. They surpassed the Rs 11.04 crore that was bid on Gautam Gambhir in 2011, the highest till now. (IPL Auctions Day 1 highlights)
Controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen, whose England career came to an abrupt end after a disastrous Ashes campaign earlier this month, fetched a huge Rs 9 crore purse, bought by Delhi Daredevils, the franchise he played for last season.
Upcoming New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson, who scored the fastest ODI century smashing a 36-ball ton to breach the record set by Shahid Afridi in 1996, expectedly got a decent package of Rs 4.5 crore with the Mumbai Indians though there was strong buzz of him emerging as the highest paid from this auction.
Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson (Rs 6.5 crore, Kings XI Punjab), all-rounder Glenn Maxwell (Rs 6 crore, Kings XI Punjab), Indian opener Murali Vijay (Rs 5 crore, Delhi Daredevils), South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis (Rs 5.5 crore, Kolkata Knight Riders), Robin Uthappa (Rs 5 crore, KKR), West Indian batsman Dwayne Smith (Rs 4.5 crore, Chennai Super Kings), Amit Mishra (Rs 4.25 crore, Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Aaron Finch (Rs 4 crore, SRH) were some of the players who triggered intense bidding in the auction.
"It's a grand affair and every edition IPL has grown bigger. The seventh edition would be no exception, it will be grander and more entertaining for fans and franchises," IPL chairman Ranjib Biswal said before the start of the star-studded auction where Bollywood actors and business tycoons were present.
Actress Preity Zinta, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab, Juhi Chawla, co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, businessman Vijay Mallya, Nita Ambani (Mumbai Indians), cricketers Rahul Dravid (Rajasthan Royals), Anil Kumble (Mumbai Indians) were among the celebrities present at the auction which was beamed live.
Former Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene, former New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor, Australian T20 specialist Cameron White, who captained Sunrisers for a while last season, West Indian Marlon Samuels, Aussie all-rounder Daniel Christian and England batsman Ian Bell surprisingly found no buyers.
Australian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, batsman David Hussey and retired pacer Brett Lee also suffered a similar fate but all the unsold players can come back into auction on Thursday.
Yuvraj, a cancer survivor, fetching such a huge price tag came as a massive surprise since the left-hander is no longer in the ODI team due to poor form though he was picked in the squad for the World Twenty20 Championship in Bangladesh.
"The team is looking stronger with him," said RCB co-owner Vijay Mallya even though he admitted that he ended up paying Rs 4 crore more than what he had planned. Similar was the case of Karthik, who does not figure in the Indian team, but generated immense interest among the franchises.
At a base price of Rs 2 crore, there was a bidding war between Delhi and Hyderabad for him before KKR also jumped into the fray. But Delhi seemed persistent and in the end, outbid the other two contenders.
The 33-year-old Pietersen was always expected to be a hot pick given that he would be available all through the season post his forced retirement from international cricket. So it came as no surprise that his name triggered a three-way bidding between CSK, KXIP and Delhi. The player eventually went to Delhi, who exercised the 'Right to Match' provision to grab him being his former employers.
Kallis was taken by KKR through the same provision after initial bidding war between CSK and Delhi.
Veteran Indian opener Virender Sehwag (base price Rs 2 crore), who had been released by Delhi, went to Kings XI Punjab for Rs 3.2 crore. The India discard's name was all set to be hammered in as unsold before Punjab bought his services fending off bids from Mumbai Indians.
Australian all-rounder Steve Smith was bought by Rajasthan Royals for Rs 4 crore while Sri Lankan Thisara Perera went to Kings XI Punjab for Rs 1.6 crore.
Hard-hitting Indian all-rounder Yusuf Pathan was re-bought by KKR for Rs 3.25 crore, South Africa's Quinton de Kock was grabbed by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 3.5 crore.
The name of Anderson, who had a base price of Rs 1 crore, was expected to generate the buzz and it did with Rajasthan Royals and RCB opening the bid. Mumbai Indians took little time in jumping into the fray, followed by the Delhi Daredevils.
Delhi backed out when the Kiwi sensation's price crossed the Rs 4 crore mark. For a while Sunrisers Hyderabad also tried their luck but Nita Ambani's Mumbai were determined to clinch his services.
Robin Uthappa, another player who has not been in the Indian team for long, managed to get a good deal of Rs 5 crore with KKR. He had gone for Rs 9.6 crore in the 2011 auction.
The Pathan brothers, Yusuf and Irfan, had to be content with a much lower package this time around after a combined collection of approximately Rs 18 crore in the 2011 auction.
While Yusuf got Rs 3.25 crore (KKR), Irfan fetched a deal of Rs 2.4 crore (Sunrisers Hyderabad) this year.
Indian pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Mohammed Shami (Delhi Daredevils) fetched identical bids of Rs 4.25 crore. Varun Aaron went to Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 2 crore,
The out of form Ishant Sharma, who was on Tuesday axed from the Asia Cup and the World T20 squad, managed to get a decent package of Rs 2.60 crore from his previous team Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Manoj Tiwary, who has now recovered from a knee surgery, was bought by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 2.80 crore, along with his state skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who fetched a contract of Rs 1.5 crore.
Interestingly, many of the Sri Lankans cricketers went unsold largely because of their unavailability for the entire duration of the IPL VII, which is clashing with their tour of England and Ireland.
The players will sign a one-year contract with their respective franchises, who have the discretion to extend them by two more years.
The salary cap for the IPL fees of the entire squad has been fixed for Rs 60 crore this year which will be increased by five per cent in 2015 and 2016.