It's the IPL 2020 auction. The highlight has been Pat Cummins selling for INR 15.5 crore (US$ 2.2 million approx.), the highest price an overseas cricketer has commanded at the IPL - ever. Here are some of the talking points and other highlights - and lowlights - from the goings-on in Kolkata.
Knight Riders break the bank for Cummins
Cummins became the most expensive overseas buy in IPL history when Kolkata Knight Riders bought him after a scrap with Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals. All right, not so much a scrap, really, because Capitals and Royal Challengers went tooth-and-nail for the first part before Knight Riders waded in and had their man.
KL Rahul the new Kings XI captain
Having let go of R Ashwin, Kings XI Punjab announced a new captain in KL Rahul for the upcoming season. Anil Kumble, their director of cricket operations, made the announcement after the auction ended on Thursday. Kings XI also brought in Wasim Jaffer and Jonty Rhodes as their batting and fielding coaches, respectively.
"This is the right moment for KL Rahul in his career," Kumble said after the auction. "This leadership role will really help him grow."
Rahul was thankful to the team management for showing "faith" in him and giving him this responsibility. "We've had a great day in the auction, we've had exactly the players we wanted, so [I'm] really, really excited and can't wait for the IPL," he said in a video posted by the franchise.
Sunrisers get India's Under-19 World Cup captain
While Rajasthan Royals made a late entry to the bid for Mumbai's Yashasvi Jaiswal, who recently became the youngest to hit a List A double-century, and got him for INR 2.4 crore (US$ 338,000 approx.), which was 12 times his base price, Sunrisers Hyderabad shelled out a lot of money on more lesser-known players: India's Under-19 World Cup captain Priyam Garg and 22-year-old Jharkhand batsman Virat Singh. The same two teams bid for them and Sunrisers beat Kings XI both times, for INR 1.9 crore each (US$ 267,000 approx.).
Fast bowlers get the big money
The second round saw big money being spent on the fast bowlers, especially Nathan Coulter-Nile and Sheldon Cottrell. Coulter-Nile was another Australian to fetch big money as Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings fought over him. He quickly became a millionaire and then went to Mumbai for a massive INR 8 crore (US$ 1.1 million approx.). Cottrell's bid saw a fierce three-way fight between Royals, Capitals and Kings XI. His bid also went on for long and became a battle between Kings XI and Capitals. Kings XI finally pouched the West Indian for INR 8.5 crore (US$ 1.2 million approx.). Royals bid again for Indian left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat and were given a bit of competition by Kings XI but eventually got him back for INR 3 crore (US$ 423,000 approx.).
In the last leg of the auction, South Africa quick Dale Steyn who has been injury-prone of late, was picked by Royal Challengers, again, after twice going unsold earlier in the day. He was picked for INR 2 crore (US$ 282,000 approx.), even though he left the BBL recently with a side strain.
Australians on the teams' radar
Cummins was certainly not the first Australian to attract interest. Before him, Glenn Maxwell was picked up by Kings XI for INR 10.75 crore (US$ 1.5 million approx.). Royal Challengers picked up Australia opener Aaron Finch for INR 4.4 crore (US$ 620,000 approx.) after winning a bidding war against Knight Riders.
Allrounder Marcus Stoinis fetched even more money when his bidding started at a base price of INR 1 crore and Royals and Capitals multiplied it nearly five times and was finally taken by the Delhi franchise for INR 4.80 cr ($US 676,000 approx.).
Andrew Tye went unsold twice but eventually got a team late in the auction script, when Royals bought him for his base price of INR 1 crore (US$ 140,800 approx.).
Varun, Chawla in high demand
Varun Chakravarthy, the mystery spinner who was the joint-most expensive buy last season, picked up an injury after just one match last IPL. That remains the only game he has played in more than 12 months and it would not have been surprising if no one wanted him this time, or spent a small amount on him. But Knight Riders and Royal Challengers did not think so. They took his price up, up, and away to INR 4 crore (US$ 563,000 approx.), when Knight Riders got him on board.
Piyush Chawla, meanwhile, is 31 and not among the top spinners in the country, and had been released by Knight Riders recently. He got INR 6.75 crore (US$ 0.95 million approx.) from Super Kings, who also have Harbhajan Singh, Imran Tahir, Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner in their spin contingent. Mumbai opened the bid for Chawla but soon dropped out as Kings XI joined in, but they stopped after a while too, and Super Kings got their man.
Another millionaire from the Caribbean
Fresh off a match-winning century against India in the first ODI, West Indies' Shimron Hetmyer is a millionaire now too. He had set his base price at INR 50 lakh and saw two bidding wars: first between Royals and Knight Riders and then between Capitals and Royals. Capitals made him a millionaire with a bid of INR 7.25 crore and then bagged him for INR 7.75 crore (US$ 1.1 million approx.). Hetmyer is known for his big-hitting and was let go by Royal Challengers recently after they gave him only five games last season in which he scored 90 runs.
The quick and cheap buys
After the main rounds of bidding, the accelerated stage saw a mix of international and uncapped players scattered across franchises. While many went unsold, the biggest buys of the round were fast bowlers Kane Richardson and Chris Jordan. Royal Challengers bid for both of them but only got Richardson, for INR 4 crore (US$ 563,000 approx.), whereas Kings XI bought Jordan for INR 3 crore (US$ 423,000 approx.) which was four times his base price of INR 75 lakh.
Tom Banton, a hard-hitting England batsman who topped the run-scoring charts in the Vitality Blast and is currently playing in the BBL, was bagged by the Knight Riders for his base price of INR 1 crore (US$ 141,000 approx.). West Indies' Fabian Allen and Oshane Thomas too went for their base prices of INR 50 lakh (US$ 70,400 approx.) to Sunrisers and the Royals respectively. And Sri Lanka's Isuru Udana, who shone with both bat and ball recently in the Mzansi Super League, got an IPL home with Royal Challengers for his base price of INR 50 lakh (US$ 70,400 approx.).
Pravin Tambe, the oldest player in the auction at 48, will get to be a part of the Knight Riders squad, for his base price of INR 20 lakh (US$ 28,150 approx). Prabhsimran Singh, who went for a whopping INR 4.8 crore last auction but played only one game for Kings XI, was bought back by the franchise for INR 55 lakh (US$ 77,500 approx.)
Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo