Kieron Pollard and Shane Bond were the biggest buys at the third IPL auction in Mumbai, each fetching the maximum possible bid of $750,000 but the biggest surprise was the fact that not a single Pakistan player was signed up by any of the franchises.
Tuesday's auction was low-key compared to the previous two, the franchises guided more by player availability than star power (the first year's trend) or pure Twenty20 skills, as in 2009. Ten overseas slots were filled, and Mohammed Kaif became the eleventh senior player signed up on the day.
However, there was not a single bid for any Pakistani player, though most of the World Twenty20-winning team was up for auction - including Shahid Afridi, the captain, Mohammad Aamer, Umar Gul and Umar Akmal. What made the blackout stranger was that the names had been placed on the auction list by the franchises expressing an interest in the players.
The official explanation was that the players were overlooked for reasons of availability and cricket strategy. "The franchises had the option to pick any player. If you look, they [Pakistan players] were not the only ones not picked," Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, said. "There were other players, too, who were not picked in the auction."
Their loss was others' gain, most notably Bond. The New Zealand fast bowler, who recently quit Test cricket to focus on the shorter forms of the game, saw his value rise the most, from a base price of $100,000 to the cap of $750,000 before Kolkata Knight Riders - who entered the bidding at $640,000 - and Deccan Chargers submitted their secret bids. Kolkata won, bidding an undisclosed amount.
"From what we have understood he [Bond] wouldn't be playing Test matches anymore and will play only ODIs and Twenty20 games," Jai Mehta, co-owner of Kolkata, explained after the auction. "Yes, he has been prone to injuries but his coach said he is in pretty good shape. We wanted a fast bowler with experience and he provides us that."
Bond's sale was the auction's second tie-breaker; the first was among four franchises for Pollard, the explosive West Indies allrounder with a base price of $200,000. He was eventually signed up by Mumbai Indians, who beat off Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata. "The team strategy, discussed between Sachin Tendulkar, TA Sekar and Robin Singh was that we wanted a batting allrounder and we are happy to have him," Nita Ambani, who represented Mumbai at the auction, said.
Pollard and Bond's final price was not disclosed and Modi said only he and the successful bidders would be privy to that information.
The two other notable signings were Kemar Roach, the West Indies fast bowler, who was bought by Deccan for $720,000, and South Africa's Wayne Parnell, bought by Delhi Daredevils for $610,000. "It is great for the player and he has a big future ahead of him," Modi said of Roach's price. "He is 100% available and that could have been a big factor [in his sale]. They [Deccan] needed a fast bowler and he met their requirement.
Eoin Morgan, the England batsman, was picked up by Bangalore for $220,000. Offspinner Graeme Swann was one of the players in the first auction pool but he did not get any bids at his base price of $250,000. Modi said that player availability was an important factor in the team's strategies.
"Yes, availability is a serious issue with all teams without doubt, based on that the teams have formed strategies," Modi said. "Eoin Morgan was not available 100 % of the time earlier but, before the auction, he was released for the full time by the ECB and hence he was bought."
Mohammad Kaif, the only Indian up for auction, went unsold in the first round of bidding but was later signed up by Punjab for $250,000.
Only three of India's Under-19 players, priced at Rs. 800,000 each, were eligible to play in the IPL and they were chosen by a draft system. Bangalore picked U-19 captain Ashok Menaria, Deccan went for Harmeet Singh and Mumbai opted for Harshal Patel.