Up went the paddle from a smiling Nita Ambani’s right hand.
The player under the hammer was Smriti Mandhana. The price was ₹50 lakh. The auction for the inaugural Women’s Premier League was underway at the Jio World Convention Centre here on a hot Monday afternoon.
Delhi Capitals made a bid for Smriti at ₹55 lakh. But it soon became an intense battle between Ms. Ambani’s Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. It ended with RCB winning Smirti for a whopping ₹3.4 crore.
When you consider the purse available to a franchise, that amount looks even bigger. What the RCB paid for ensuring those elegant drives on the off-side of Smriti was more than a quarter of the ₹12 core purse.
The stylish left-handed Indian opener thus ensured that the WPL’s maiden auction got off to a right start — brisk, frenzied. If her high price wasn’t much of a surprise — she is the poster girl of Indian women’s cricket, has a big fan-following and is very much marketable. Australia’s Ashleigh Gardner getting richer by ₹3.2 crore may have surprised some.
The all-rounder had only the other day said after taking five for 12 against New Zealand at the on-going World Cup in South Africa that she had dreamt about the WPL auction. She has now got a dream paycheck, too, from Gujarat Giants.
England all-rounder Nat Sciver-Brunt was the only other player to go past the ₹3 crore mark. She was bagged by Mumbai Indians for ₹3.2 crore.
Four players went for ₹ 2 crore or more – all-rounder Deepti Sharma (₹ 2.6 crore, UP Warriorz), batter Jemimah Rodrigues (₹ 2.2 crore, Delhi Capitals), Australian wicketkeeper-batter Beth Mooney (₹ 2 crore, Gujarat Giants) and opener Shafali Verma (₹ 2 crore, Delhi Capitals).
Among the night’s other big Indian winners were pace-bowling all-rounder Pooja Vastrakar (₹1.9 crore, Mumbai Indians), wicketkeeper-batters Richa Ghosh (₹1.9 crore, RCB) and Yastika Bhatia (₹1.5 crore, Mumbai Indians), captain Harmanpreet Kaur (₹1.8 crore, Mumbai Indians) and seamer Renuka Singh (₹1.5 crore, RCB). Leg-spinning all-rounder Devika Vaidya, who recently made a comeback to the Indian team after a long break, turned heads when she was bought by UP Warriorz for ₹1.4 crore.
Not surprisingly, the young Indian players from the Under-19 World Cup winning team attracted quite a bit of interest. India’s biggest star in that tournament in South Africa, Shweta Sehrawat, who was the leading scorer, was bought by UP Warriorz for ₹ 40 lakh, against a base price of ₹ 10 lakh. Seamer Titas Sadhu was bagged by Delhi Capitals for ₹ 25 lakh.
Senior Indian seamer Meghna Singh was in for a disappointment. Her base price was ₹ 50 lakh and she went unsold.
On the same boat were some big stars from overseas. There were no takers for the England trio of Dani Wyatt, Katherine Sciver-Brunt and Amy Jones, Australia’s Alana King and New Zealand’s Suzie Bates, South Africa’s Sune Luus and Sri Lankan Chamari Athapaththu.
Of the 449 players that went under the hammer, 87 players were bought, including 30 overseas.