Smriti Mandhana stole the thunder in the inaugural Women's Premier League (WPL) auctions as Royal Challengers Bangalore pipped Mumbai Indians in a bidding war to buy the India vice-captain for Rs 3.40 crore ($4,10,000) here on Monday.
India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur came much cheaper for Mumbai Indians, at nearly half the price of Mandhana, at Rs 1.80 crore. Harman is also not the highest paid in her team where England's Nat Sciver-Brunt got way more at Rs 3.20 crore.
In fact, Harmanpreet was not even among the top-six Indian buys as the second costliest player from the country so far is all-rounder Deepti Sharma, who was bought by UP Warriorz for Rs 2.6 crore.
The hard-hitting Shafali Verma and star of the T20 World Cup game against Pakistan on Sunday, Jemimah Rodrigues were picked by Delhi Capitals for Rs 2 crore and Rs 2.20 crore respectively. All-rounders Pooja Vastrakar and Richa Ghosh laughed their way to the bank with Rs 1.90 crore deals offered by MI and RCB respectively.
Jemimah and Richa's deals were also a case of recency bias as the Pakistan match on Sunday did play a big role.
However, Delhi Capitals pulled off a coup by roping in one of contemporary women's cricket's best leaders Meg Lanning of Australia for Rs 1.10 crore.
The RCB, which teed off the buying spree, also explained their choices and the price attached to it.
"Everyone knows Mandhana and (Australia's Elysse) Perry (Rs 1.7 crore); we were pretty committed to the couple of people we wanted to get. We're very happy to get such quality players. It's a dream result for us to get Mandhana, Perry and (Sophie) Devine (Rs 50 lakh)," RCB Director of Cricket Mike Hesson said during a media interaction.
"Smriti has got plenty of captaincy experience and is familiar with the Indian conditions, so highly likely (she'll be the captain)."
Mandhana, who watched the auction with her team cheering each bid, was ecstatic.
"We have been watching the auction of men's (players). It is such a big moment for women to have an auction of this sort. The whole thing is exacting. RCB's legacy is big, they have built a big fan base. Hope we both can together build a big team," Mandhana said.
Deepti on her part said, "We waited for this opportunity and since I am from UP, it is a great feeling. I want to contribute as much as possible for UP Warriorz."
One of the prominent picks during the first round of auction was Australia's off-spin all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner, who was bought by Gautam Adani-owned Gujarat Giants for Rs 3.20 crore ($3,86,000). Gardner and Nat Sciver are the two highest-paid overseas players.
Gujarat primarily bought foreign players and are yet to buy prominent India players save Harleen Deol for Rs 40 lakh.
Star Australian all-rounder Perry received a cool Rs 1.70 crore ($2,05,000) winning bid from RCB, who also got New Zealand skipper Devine dirt cheap at a base price of Rs 50 lakh.
RCB has already exhausted Rs 7.10 crore out of Rs 12-crore purse on four players and they need to get another 11 players with the rest of the Rs 4.90 crore to have a mandatory squad size of 15 players. The maximum squad strength will be 18 players.
UP Warriorz also got England left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone on board for Rs 1.80 crore.
The five potential captains are Mandhana (RCB), Harmanpreet (MI), Lanning (DC), Beth Mooney (Gujarat Giants) and Deepti Sharma (UP Warriorz).
Some of the big names to miss out are Sri Lankan skipper Chamari Atapatthu, English captain Heather Knight and South African batter Laura Wolvaardt.