Sitting in Christchurch and Port Elizabeth respectively, Shane Bond and Wayne Parnell were full of nervous excitement as both were following the IPL auction live, taking place in Mumbai. Their names were part of the first two pools that went under the hammer when bidding started at noon on Tuesday.
The auction had already got off to an eventful beginning; the first man on the list, Pakistan's Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi, was ignored by all eight franchises. Before you could swallow that shock the auctioneer announced "Kieron Pollard". For the next 25 minutes the Trinidad giant imposed himself across the auction hall as four teams battled for his services. Eventually the Mumbai Indians snapped him up through the silent tie-breaker for an undisclosed sum.
Bond was getting edgy. "I did have sweaty palms and was little nervous to begin with," he told Cricinfo. "There were a couple of players before me but once it unfolded it became really exciting."
He had to hold on for some more time because Parnell's name was called up for the bidding. Immediately, Delhi Daredevils and Deccan Chargers jumped in the fray. Only 20, Parnell became the youngest South African to get a national contract last year and featured in the series-levelling Test against England at the Wanderers last week, where he picked two important wickets of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen in the second innings. Considering his inexperience, it was surprising to see Delhi and Deccan wanting to shell out more than US$500,000 for him. Parnell himself was stunned at the eventual winning bid, of $610,000 from Delhi. He now becomes the third most expensive South African in the League after JP Duminy (US$950,000) and Jacques Kallis (US$900,000).
"I didn't expect that much but I am really excited," Parnell said from his home in Port Elizabeth. "I never expected the price to be so high. I expected I would get anywhere between $300,000-350,000."
IPL think-tanks had been tracking the South African's progress since his impressive performances against Australia during the home series in 2009. Parnell was first noticed though, during the 2008 Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia, where he led South Africa to the final. He played one ODI and another Twenty20 during South Africa's tour of Australia later that year. Having excelled at home against Ricky Ponting's team, Parnell travelled to England last year to participate in the ICC World Twenty20, where he again caught the eye with nine wickets and a miserly economy rate of 5.71.
The IPL scouts had already knocked on his door when the IPL had moved to South Africa last year. "AB [de Villiers] introduced me to the bowling coach of Delhi during the last IPL in South Africa," Parnell said. Recently the Mumbai Indians were in touch with him before the auction.
But Parnell refuses to believe that he is worth more than half-a-million dollars. "It is unbelievable. I was not worried about the price. I just wanted the opportunity to play and show what I am worth," he said. "But am excited that I am worth that high so it is an added bonus."
Essentially, Parnell fills the slot left vacant after Delhi bought out the contract of Glenn McGrath. "I am not going to go there pretending I'm going to fill his shoes." Instead, Parnell is happy that he would be able to play with experienced players and he wants to use the opportunity to learn faster. One of them happens to be his childhood idols Ashish Nehra.
As a youngster, Nehra had been the first international bowler he had seen bowl live and was instantly influenced. "Yes, he was one my idols considering he is a left-handed fast bowler, too. It would be fun to play alongside him," Parnell said. He aims to gain further experience during South Africa's tour of India next month where he hopes to take the opportunity to learn more about the conditions and the pitches and take that to the IPL.
Meanwhile, as Parnell was trying to pinch himself in disbelief, Bond's pulse count increased as his name came up next. Despite his experience and stature, Bond's base price was only half of Parnell's at US$100,000. Team owners, though, did not have any doubt about Bond's fast bowling pedigree, Chennai Super Kings and Deccan starting a fierce bidding war, which was later joined by the Kolkata Knight Riders, his eventual owners as he became the second player to be bought through the tie-breaker rule.
"I was following it live on the internet. I was very excited. I had no expectations," a jubilant Bond said. "I was just relaxed the whole day. I was just hoping to be picked up by someone."
The injury-plagued Bond recently retired from Test cricket and decided to focus on limited-overs cricket after yet another breakdown during the home series against Pakistan last November. He is happy now that he made that decision. "That is one a good thing about giving up playing Tests as I can concentrate on the skills required for this format," Bond said.
Just like every player who joins Kolkata Bond, too, is eager to be part of the Shah Rukh Khan camp. "Obviously Kolkata is a such a high-profile team with Shah Rukh Khan as one of the owners. To end up there and get a chance to play in front of Eden Gardens is absolutely amazing," he said. An added delight would be playing alongside a close friend and national team-mate, Brendon McCullum.
Though his new employers had not yet called to give the good news considering it was close to 10 pm in Christchurch by the time the auction got over, Bond is not bothered and instead wants to get organised for the India trip. According to him the biggest challenge would be to play in front of the mammoth crowds that Eden Gardens is famous for. "I haven't played in front of a crowd like Eden Gardens. Their passion excites me and they want to win and I want to win so I hope to do good," Bond said.
Bond said he is also looking forward to play under Sourav Ganguly, the Kolkata captain. "I am competitive and I want to win always," he said. "I bring good attitude to the team and looking forward to play under Sourav."