India’s annual cricket slugfest began with its player auction on January 8 and 9.
The Indian Premier League (IPL), always filled with drama and eye-watering bids, saw 350 players up for grabs, with 127 being selected at a total cost of $75m.
However, the most significant shock from the weekend was that only four members of England’s historic Ashes winning team were picked.
Of the eight that put themselves forward, only Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Stuart Broad and Eoin Morgan were selected; costing $1.65m between them.
Pietersen’s price of $650,000 (£418,000) was less than half the $1.6m price that he fetched in the 2009 auction. English stars such as James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Matt Prior were overlooked entirely.
Pietersen will play for the Deccan Chargers and Broad for the King’s XI Punjab. Collingwood will represent the Rajasthan Royals, while Morgan will play for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Concerns over England’s players availability to fully participate in the tournament almost certainly led to their stock being lowered. The event begins six days after the ICC World Cup final and ends less than a week before England begin their Test series against Sri Lanka.
Calendar congestion has always been a problem for the tournament, and many players don’t participate fully due to international commitments. Australian players Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke chose not to enter for this year’s round-robin tournament, the fourth of its kind, played between April 8 and May 28.
England coach Andy Flower saw a benefit to some of the Ashes-retaining squad not being picked. Flower believes a rest between the World Cup and the Sri Lanka tests will do wonders for the players, especially James Anderson. Flower commented: “Anderson has just played five Tests in a row and that’s a magnificent achievement in itself, so he has to rest now.”
Flower is sceptical of the IPL because it can cause unnecessary injury and burn out players when they could be resting but he added that: “I personally don’t blame any of the players for wanting to go there and play.”
Meanwhile, Indian opener Gautam Gambhir went for a staggering $2.4m to the Kolkata Knight Riders, a new record for a single player. The seven most expensive players were all Indian, with Sri Lankan veteran Mahela Jayawardene setting the new Kochi-based franchise back a cool $1.5m as the most expensive foreign player.
In addition to the England snubs, ageing stars such as Sourav Ganguly, Chris Gayle and cricketing icon Brian Lara, who hasn’t played international cricket since 2007, were passed over by all ten teams.