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Mandhana gets the biggest bid at WPL auction, goes to RCB for INR 3.4 crore

Australia's Ashleigh Gardner and England's Nat Sciver-Brunt were the most expensive overseas players at a price of INR 3.2 crore

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur rejoice after the Super Over win, India vs Australia, 2nd women's T20I, DY Patil, December 11, 2022

Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur will line up for RCB and MI respectively  •  Getty Images

India batter Smriti Mandhana was the most expensive buy at the inaugural Women's Premier League auction in Mumbai, going to Royal Challengers Bangalore for INR 3.4 crore (USD 415,000 approx). She was also the first player to come up for bidding at the auction on Monday.
RCB spent nearly 50% of their INR 12 crore purse on three players in the first marquee set, also buying allrounders Sophie Devine at her base price of INR 50 lakh (USD 61,000 approx) and Ellyse Perry for INR 1.7 crore (USD 207,000 approx).
They then added big-hitting 19-year-old wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh, who featured in India's victorious Under-19 World Cup campaign last month, for INR 1.9 crore (USD 232,000 approx).
"Everyone knows Mandhana and Perry, we were pretty committed to the couple of people we wanted to get," RCB director of cricket Mike Hesson said. "We're very happy to get such quality players. It's a dream result for us to get Mandhana, Perry and Devine. Smriti has got plenty of captaincy experience and is familiar with the Indian conditions, so highly likely [she'll be captain]."
Mumbai Indians, who failed to buy Mandhana, beat off competition from RCB and Delhi Capitals for Harmanpreet Kaur and bought the India captain for INR 1.8 crore (USD 220,000 approx). Among Mumbai's other big-ticket Indian signings were allrounder Pooja Vastrakar for INR 1.9 crore (USD 232,000 approx) and Yastika Bhatia for INR 1.5 crore (USD 183,000 approx).
Allrounder Deepti Sharma was the second-most expensive Indian at INR 2.6 crore (USD 317,000 approx). She will line-up for UP Warriorz, who will be based in her home state of Uttar Pradesh. Warriorz also spent big on Tahlia McGrath and India allrounder Devika Vaidya at INR 1.4 crore (USD 171,000 approx) each, and Shabnim Ismail at INR 1 crore (USD 122,000 approx).

Gardner, Nat Sciver-Brunt most expensive overseas buys

Ashleigh Gardner, the No.1. allrounder in women's T20Is, attracted the joint second-highest bid of INR 3.2 crore (USD 390,000 approx) from Gujarat Giants, alongside England's Nat Sciver-Brunt, who was bought by Mumbai for the same price.
Gardner's strike rate of 133.62 is the highest among all batters with over 1000 T20I runs. On Friday, she picked up a five-for in Australia's resounding win over New Zealand in their opening game of the Women's T20 World Cup in South Africa.
Sciver-Brunt, a hard-hitting middle-order batter and seamer, was the third highest run-getter in the 2022 Women's Hundred. Her 228 runs in six innings for Trent Rockets came at a strike rate of 122.58.
Her England team-mate and left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone went to Warriorz for INR 1.8 crore (USD 220,000 approx), while Beth Mooney, who was the highest run-scorer during Australia's tour of India in December, was bought by Giants for INR 2 crore (USD 244,000 approx).
Australia wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy, who wasn't part of the two marquee sets and came up only in set five, was snapped up by Warriorz for a steal at INR 70 lakh (USD 85,000 approx), while Meg Lanning, Australia's previous ODI and T20 World Cup-winning captain, was signed by Capitals for INR 1.1 crore (USD 134,000 approx). Capitals continued their overseas buying spree when they bought South Africa allrounder Marizanne Kapp, who attracted the highest bid among allrounders outside the marquee set at INR 1.5 crore (USD 183,000 approx).
West Indies batter Hayley Matthews was the only player unsold from the first marquee set, but she was eventually bought by Mumbai during the accelerated phase at the end of the auction for INR 40 lakh (USD 49,000 approx). Among other surprise overseas omissions before the start of the accelerated phase of the auction were former New Zealand captain Suzie Bates, Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu, South Africa captain Sune Luus, and the Australian pair of Megan Schutt and Jess Jonassen. Jonassen was also bought during the accelerated phase by Capitals for INR 50 lakh (USD 61,000 approx), while RCB eventually picked up Schutt for INR 40 lakh (USD 49,000 approx).

Capitals sign India's Gen Z

Capitals bought India batters Jemimah Rodrigues (INR 2.2 crore - USD 268,000 approx) and Shafali Verma (INR 2 crore - USD 244,000 approx), alongside Australia captain Lanning, giving them plenty of leadership options.
"No, it's too early for that, but of course there are captaincy options in those names," Parth Jindal, the co-owner of Capitals, said. "One is an India Under-19 captain [Shafali], another is a legend of the game in Meg Lanning. Jemimah too is a wonderful reader of the game. But it all depends on the coach at the end of it, also depends on who else we pick up."
Rodrigues got India off to a winning start over Pakistan at the T20 World Cup with a half-century on Sunday, while Shafali, who was part of that XI, captained India to their inaugural women's Under-19 T20 World Cup last month.

Under-19 World Cup winners who got picked

Shafali and Ghosh, by virtue of being internationals, were grouped in the capped sets of players and predictably went for big money. With all five teams having established a core group of players by the time the uncapped players came up for bidding, it was only a select few from the victorious India Under-19 squad that got picked. Among those to get bought were Bengal's Titas Sadhu (Capitals), Delhi's Shweta Sehrawat (Warriorz), UP's Sonam Yadav (Mumbai Indians) and Parshavi Chopra (Warriorz), Andhra's Shabnam MD (Giants) and Mumbai's Hurley Gala (Giants). S Yashasri, who was a standby at the World Cup, was picked by Warriorz.

Low demand for Associate Players

Associate players were in low demand, with only four of them - USA's Tara Norris, UAE's Mahika Gaur, and Scotland's Bryce sisters, Sarah and Kathryn - being shortlisted for the accelerated rounds.
Norris, the 24-year-old left-arm seamer from Philadelphia, was snapped up by Capitals for INR 10 lakh (USD 12,200 approx). She plays much of her cricket in England and was the second-highest wicket-taker for Southern Vipers in their charge to the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy in 2020. She was also part of the Loughborough Lightning in the Kia Super League.
At 16, Gaur could have been the youngest overseas signing and even attracted a bid from the Giants, only for them to be told they had exhausted their quota of six overseas players. The Bryce sisters didn't find a bid.
The inaugural season of the WPL will be contested by the five franchises from March 4 to 26, with all 22 matches being held at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai and the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo