England’s Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff joined the Indian Premier League yesterday as its most expensive players after being auctioned for US$1.55 million each.
Pietersen was bought by liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s Bangalore Royal Challengers at a televised auction, while Flintoff went for the same price to Chennai Super Kings.
Both players broke the existing record of India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was purchased by the Chennai franchise for US$1.5 million last year.
Pietersen and Flintoff will, however, receive only half their money as England players are available for just the first three weeks of the lucrative six-week Twenty20 tournament.
Tournament rules stipulate that payments are made on a pro-rata basis for matches played. This year’s contracts are for a two-year period.
“A player like Kevin is a great buy for us,” said a beaming Mallya, whose team finished seventh out of eight teams in the inaugural edition of the tournament last year. “He is one of the most explosive batsmen in the world and will bring a lot of class to our team.”
Indian cricket board secretary N. Srinivasan, who owns the Chennai Super Kings, said he was delighted to have all-rounder Flintoff on board.
“Twenty20 cricket is a game for all-rounders and Flintoff is one of the best in the business,” said Srinivasan, whose team entered last year’s final where they lost to the Shane Warne-led Rajasthan Royals.
As many as 50 players threw their hat in the ring for the 17 slots available to franchises, but the unlucky ones could still make the grade at a later date to replace the absent Pakistan cricketers.
IPL franchises terminated the contracts of six Pakistanis and put on hold four others after the Pakistan government refused them permission to play in India for security reasons.
Young South African Jean-Paul Duminy confirmed his rising stature in the sport when Sachin Tendulkar’s Mumbai Indians, owned by industrialist Mukesh Ambani, bought him for US$950,000.
Rajasthan Royals, partly owned by Bollywood actress and British reality TV star Shilpa Shetty, created a stir when they picked up aging South African Tyron Henderson for US$650,000.
All-rounder Henderson, 34, has played just one international match — a Twenty20 game against India in 2006 — but has turned out consistent performances for his English county Middlesex.
Bangladesh seamer Mashrafe Mortaza, whose base price was US$50,000, went to Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders for US$600,000.
No Indian player featured in the auction since they were already snapped up last year.
■AUSTRALIA V N ZEALAND
New Zealand 226-4 (48.5 overs) beat Australia 225-5 (50 overs) by six wickets.
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