Dhoni bags $1.5 million at the auction of players for IPL

Auctioneer Richard Madley could not have imagined the impact of his words on the glittering gathering at the plush Hilton Towers here on Wednesday.

Neither could his vast experience at running auctions have prepared him for the frenzy that was to follow his announcement that India one day skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had raked in a cool $1.5 million (Rs 6 crore) to top the charts at the auction of players for the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League.

Marking the dawn of a new era in cricket, the bid process saw the Deccan Chronicle's Hyderabad team emerge as the most balanced of the eight outfits, with Andrew Symonds its star buy at $1.35 million (Rs 5.4 crore). The colourful Symonds will be joined by iconic Aussie wicket keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist ($700,000), Pakistan's explosive batsman Shahid Afridi ($675,000) in a team led by the stylish Venkatasai Laxman.

Chennai forked out the massive amount spent on Twenty20 world championship winner Dhoni, and he was joined by the likes of Australian opener Matthew Hayden ($375,000), wily Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan ($600,000) and former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming ($350,000). Drawing almost as many gasps as Dhoni was Delhi's new star,

Ishant Sharma, who was snapped up by Shah Rukh Khan's Kolkata for $950,000 (Rs 3.8 crores) to become the second highest paid Indian. It also means that his captain, Sourav Ganguly, will pull in excess of a million dollars, as the former India skipper is guaranteed iconic status and a guarantee of 15 per cent more than the highest paid player in his squad.

Eight franchise owners, including corporate tycoons like Mukesh Ambani and liquor baron Vijay Mallya and Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta (with partner Ness Wadia), bid for the 79 cricketers at an event that has the potential to change the face of world cricket.

Age did not seem to be a criteria either as Sri Lanka opener Sanath Jayasuriya, at 38 one of the oldest on sale, drew in a bid of $975,000 (Rs 3.9 crores) from the Ambani owned and Sachin Tendulkar-led Mumbai team. Australian speedster Brett Lee went for $900,000 (Rs 3.6 crores) to Preity Zinta's Mohali, which will be led by Yuvraj Singh. South African all rounder Jacques Kallis sold for $900,000 (Rs 3.6 crores) to Hyderabad, Harbhajan Singh for $850,000 (Rs 3.4 crores) also to Mumbai, and West Indies opener Chris Gayle for $800,000 (Rs 3.2 crores) to Kolkata.

Delhi, to be led by Virender Sehwag, bagged retired Aussie fast bowler Glenn McGrath for a relatively modest $350,000. Legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne was snapped up by Jaipur for $450,000. The high-profile Twenty20 venture will run from April 18 to June 1 and a grand opening will be held in Bangalore.

The IPL's five "icon" players - Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai), Ganguly (Kolkata), Yuvraj (Mohali), Rahul Dravid (Bangalore) and Sehwag (Delhi) were not part of the auction but have been guaranteed 15 per cent more than the highest paid player at their franchise.

Symonds' high price came as a surprise as he went over his base price of $250,000 by a big margin to Team Hyderabad. Symonds has indicated that he is unwilling to be a part of the Australia team scheduled to tour Pakistan in the next couple of months, which means he will be available for this year's tournament itself.

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