Rookie all-rounder Pawan Negi stunned the cricket fraternity by commanding the second highest bid while veteran Australian star Shane Watson emerged as the most expensive player at the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction here on Saturday.
Star batsman Yuvraj Singh was meanwhile snapped up by Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs.7 crore.
On a day when the IPL franchises decided to shell out surprisingly high amounts for young Indian players, Delhi Daredevils' decison to pay Rs 8.5 crore for Negi was the highlight of the day.
Negi, who was included in the Indian squad for the World Twenty20 championship on Friday, had a base price of only Rs.30 lakh before a bidding war between newly-former franchise Rising Pune Super Giants and the Daredevils saw him emerge as the costliest Indian player at the auction.
The 23-year-old, who is yet to make his international debut, is known for his wicket to wicket to bowling and ability to come up with the big hits in the lower-middle order. Negi has been outstanding in domestic cricket with both bat and ball.
He played for the now suspended Chennai Super Kings franchise in the previous seasons of the IPL and represents Delhi in the domestic circuit. He had been signed by Chennai for his reserve price of 10 lakh a couple of seasons ago.
In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (the domestic T20 competition), he took six wickets at 33.66 at an economy of 8.71 and scored 173 runs at 86.50 with a strike-rate of 173 for Delhi.
Watson, who has represented Rajasthan Royals (RR) every year since joining them in the inaugural edition in 2008, was bought by Vijay Mallay-owned RCB for Rs 9.5 crore from a base price of Rs 2 crore.
This is first time that Watson has featured in the IPL auction since the inaugural editon in 2008. He is the only player to win the player of the tournament award twice. But his deal was annulled after the Rajasthan and Chennai franchises were suspended for two years after the IPL was hit by a match fixing corruption scandal.
A bidding war between the Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai franchises was the key to Watson's auction price soaring well above his base price.
"Incredibly excited to join such a great franchise. Looking forward to joining up with my new teammates in April," the 34-year-old posted on social networking site Twitter.
With Watson joining them, RCB will feature a power-packed squad this year. Their line-up also includes destructive West Indies opener Chris Gayle South African veteran A.B. de Villiers, India team star Virat Kohli and Australian pacer Mitchell Starc.
Yuvraj on the other hand, will make the move to Hyderabad from the Delhi Daredevils, who had bought him last year for Rs 16 crore. The veteran southpaw has been bought for a much reduced price this year, with the Sunrisers shelling out Rs.7 crore for his services. Yuvraj had a base price of Rs 2 crore.
The Daredevils have replaced Yuvraj with South all-rounder Christopher Morris, who has been bought for the same price as the Indian star. The 28-year-old had a base price of Rs.50 lakhs.
"Unbelievably grateful! Very excited to be part of @DelhiDaredevils #humbled," Morris tweeted later.
Among other big buys, Indian medium-pacer Mohit Sharma went for Rs 6.5 crore to Kings XI Punjab, while Hyderabad splurged Rs.5.5 crore for veteran left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra.
Delhi bought young Kerala wicketkeeper Sanju Samson and West Indian batsman Carlos Brathwaite for Rs 4.2 crore each. Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh went to Pune for Rs 4.8 crore.
Mitchell joined England star Kevin Pietersen, who was picked up for Rs 3.5 crore. The duo will join India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Pune. Pietersen had a base price of Rs 2 crore.
Samson's base price was fixed at Rs 2 crore, but he went for more than double that amount after some competitive bidding between the Daredevils and newly-formed Rajkot based franchise Gujarat Lions.
Besides his batting, it was Samson's wicketkeeping skills that has made him a success with the Rajasthan Royals. With the Royals out of the IPL for two years, his performance saw him set at a base price of Rs.2 crore. The Kerala lad had represented the country in a Twenty20 series against Zimbabwe last year.
The shy and soft spoken Samson said he had never expected to be bought for such a high price. "I never expected this. I am happy to hear the news and I will perform to the best of my abilities for my team," the 21-year-old told the media in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday.
Tamil Nadu leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin and rookie fast bowler Nathu Singh were among other young Indian players to rake in the big bucks. Ashwin was bought by Pune for a whopping Rs.4.5 crore. Nathu, who had grabbed the headlines by making it to the BOard President's XI during South Africa's tour of India late last year, was picked up by Mumbai Indians for a whopping Rs 3.2 crores. Both will make their IPL debuts this year.
Meanwhile, veteran all-rounder Rajat Bhatia was bought by Pune for Rs 60 lakhs. Delhi fast bowler Pradeep Sangwan was sold to Gujarat Lions for Rs 20 lakhs.
Among the unsold players, New Zealand opener Martin Guptill, Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait and his compatriot George Bailey were the most notable names. Guptill had a base price of Rs.50 lakh while Bailey's was set at Rs.1 crore. Tait's base price was Rs. 1.5 crore. Australian spinner Nathan Lyon and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin were also unsold with base prices of Rs.1.5 crore and Rs 1 crore respectively.
Former CSK star Subramaniam Badrinath and Cheteshwar Pujara were the most notable among the unsold Indians. Both had a base price of Rs 50 lakh.
Mumbai Indians' (MI) head coach Ricky Ponting was happy with the inclusion of England wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler and New Zealand pacer Tim Southee in the side.
The 27-year-old Southee, who had a base price of Rs 1 crore, was bought by the defending champions for Rs 2.5 crore while Buttler, who had a base price of Rs.1.5 crore, was bought for Rs 3.8 crore.
"We have got two boys, two overseas players, Jos Buttler and Tim Southee. We are very happy with those picks," Ponting said via a video message posted by MI on Twitter.
"I was very keen to have Buttler to have as a backup batsman and a wicket keeper as well. Tim is a very good new ball bowler and can easily take the place of Lasith Malinga. So we are happy with the buys," he added.