Stuart Binny, returning from the ICL, came within one bid of overtaking Robin Uthappa as the highest-paid cricketer in the Karnataka Premier League (KPL), Karnataka's IPL-style tournament. In an auction for 48 top players from Karnataka, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore Brigaders (Bangalore Urban) made the highest bid, buying Uthappa for Rs 325,000, while Binny went to Bijapur Bulls for Rs 320,000.

As expected, the big names of Karnataka cricket, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, stayed away from the auction. Dravid, in fact, trained in the nets in the adjoining National Cricket Academy (NCA) at the same time as the auction went on.

The KPL concept, as the team names suggest, is based on the IPL. Eight corporate houses bought franchises for teams representing different zones in Karnataka, via an auction, which resulted in a revenue of Rs 35 crores for the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA). The spendings in the player auction pale in comparison, mostly because of the cap of Rs 700,000 that each team was allowed to spend on six players each that they had to buy today.

Other players to fetch big amounts were B Akhil (Rs 300,000 to Provident Bangalore [Bangalore Rural]), Manish Pandey (255,000 to Belgaavi Panthers), R Vinay Kumar (250,000 to Belgaum), Bharat Chipli (235,000 to Mangalore), Raju Bhatkal (210,000 to Malnad Gladiators) and Sunil Joshi (205,000 to Shamanur Davangere Diamonds). Sixteen others, including most of the current Ranji cricketers from the state, fetched prices between 1 and 2 lakhs.

The base price for each player was Rs 20,000, and they were put on auction by a draw of lots. Some of them were playing the KSCA Invitational league final, against Air India, at the same time. While the likes of CM Gautam (Rs 140,000 to Davangere) and KB Pawan (185,000 to Mysore Maharajas) failed and were out by the time they were sold, Pandey went on to score a quick hundred.

A total of Rs 53.9 lakhs was spent on these 48 cricketers. Those teams that didn't exhaust their 7-lakh limit today can use the surplus in buying nine other players from outside this pool of 48, but their total spendings can't be more than Rs 11 lakhs. The KPL did suffer a big blow yesterday when the BCCI refused to allow it employ outstation players, which would have made the event much more popular.The tournament is expected to run from September 12 to 27.