Even as England hot shot all-rounder Ben Stokes ruled the roost, star Karnataka players commanded hefty price tags on the opening day of the IPL players auction here on Saturday.
After emerging as the costliest foreign player ever at a whopping Rs 14.5 crore last February, Stokes, despite facing charges of affray back home, showed why he's considered as the most valuable cricketer in the world when Rajasthan Royals bought him for Rs 12.5 crore. On an extended first day of auction, Stokes ended up being the costliest buy.
It was a day to savour for three of Karnataka's international players. Opening batsman K L Rahul, strangely out of favour in limited overs cricket since the tour of Sri Lanka last year, was bought for a huge Rs 11 crore by Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad matched that sum to acquire the services of dashing middle-order batsman Manish Pandey. Rahul and Pandey were the richest Indian buys on the day.
Karnataka vice-captain Karun Nair, who hammered two centuries in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, didn't set the tongues wagging like his other two mates but still was richer by Rs 5.6 crore after being picked up Kings XI Punjab. Another Bengalurean Robin Uthappa, who switched sides to Vidarbha at the start of this season, was retained by Kolkata Knight Riders using the Right To Match card for Rs 6.4 crore, making it a sweet day for home cricketers.
Plenty of uncapped players also raked in the moolah with left-arm spinning all-rounder Krunal Pandya leading the roost, Mumbai Indians using the RTM to keep him at Rs 8.80 crore. Teenage wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan, who has been making waves on the domestic circuit, went for Rs 6.2 core (Mumbai Indians). Among the overseas uncapped players, Jofra Archer and D'Arcy Short laughed their way to the banks, thanks to the Rajasthan Royals who bought them for rich amounts.
Archer, a Barbados born fast-bowling all-rounder who has been setting the English county circuit on fire, was picked up for Rs 7.2 crore while Australian Short, a big hit in the Big Bash League this season, was roped in for Rs 4 crore.
While many players who would have watched the auction must have been happier, it was a sour one for one of the most successful and destructive T20 batsmen - Chris Gayle. Owner of a record 20 centuries in the shortest format but battling indifferent from off late, the towering West Indian stunningly saw no takers at all for him. Even Royal Challengers Bangalore, for whom he has played many match-winning knocks, didn't raise a paddle for the batsman.
England Test skipper Joe Root, his colleagues Johnny Bairstow and Sam Billings, New Zealand pace spearhead Tim Southee and yorker machine Lasith Malinga also met the same fate. They, however, can return to the auction pool on Sunday through accelerated bidding.
While Kings XI Punjab were the most active among all the teams with co-owner Preity Zinta raising the paddle for almost every player, Sunrisers Hyderabad made the most investments, buying 14 players. While they have just Rs 7.95 crore remaining - the second least among all teams - they have made some sound purchases in almost departments. Mumbai Indians, the most successful franchise with three titles, were very cautious in their bidding.
In an interesting turn of events, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, a Chennai Super Kings regular, will sport a different colours after he was snapped up by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 7.6 crore.
However, his off-spinning counter-part Harbhajan Singh, who has played at Mumbai Indians since the first edition of the tournament, was bought by CSK for his base price of Rs 2 crore.
Yuvraj Singh made his way back to Punjab for Rs 2 crore, a small sum when compared to the massive bids he received in the previous auctions.