By Robson Sharuko
HARARE – There will be US$7 million worth of South African cricket talent on show at the Indian Premier League this year after a day of madness at the auction in Bengalore on Monday night in which explosive English all-rounder Ben Stokes was snapped up for a staggering £1.7m by the Rising Pune Supergiants.
Surprisingly, the number one ranked limited overs bowler in the world, Imran Tahir, didn’t make it while two Afghanistan players – Mohamed Nabi and teenage spinner Rashid Khan – who are on tour in Zimbabwe, made history as the first players from their country to be snapped up by IPL franchises.
South African pace bowler Kagiso Rabada fetched a cool US$746, 000 when he was bought by the Dehli Daredevils as the curtain came down on cricket’s mad auction that started with 750 players registered for auction and ended with 35 striking gold in the richest cricket tournament in the world.
Season 10 of the IPL – the Eldorado for international cricketers – will run from April 6 to May 21.
And, on Monday, the foundation was laid for what is likely to be an explosive multi-million-dollar showdown with the franchises flexing their financial muscles to secure the best possible talents for them to succeed in this Bollywood drama.
Stokes, the big-hitting and wicket-taking English cricketer, who has recently been named his country’s Test side vice-captain in the set-up that followed Alistair Cook’s decision to call time on his leadership of the team and the elevation of Joe Root into the top job, grabbed all the international headlines with the outrageous price the Pune Supergiants paid for his services.
In an instant, he became the highest paid England cricketer of all-time and described the dramatic events, as they unfolded in Bengalore, as “complete carnage” as the Pune franchise, who finished bottom of the table last year, decided to go for broke by paying Stokes seven times his starting price after an intense bidding war for his signature.
The 25-year-old Stokes became the highest paid overseas player in IPL history and his deal is only dwarfed by the staggering £1.9m deal which was paid for the services of India’s Yuvraj Singh two years ago.
And with the cricketer also earning about £1 million from his combined international central contracts, where he is one of the
best players for England, it means Stokes will this year earn much more than any cricketer from his country has ever pocketed.
“It’s a life changing amount of money,” Stokes told The Guardian newspaper. “I was following on Twitter, I didn’t actually see the auction live. I kept on refreshing. I saw people were tweeting and then I realised that Pune had got me. I wasn’t sure how much a crore was. It was complete carnage.”
And, the madness, for the English players didn’t only stop there with paceman Tymal Mills being snatched for a cool US$1.8 million to play for the Royal Challengers Bangalore despite having only four international caps to his name and, crucially, almost being forced out of the game three years ago by a back condition.
He started at US$74,000 and by the time he was signed, his base price has gone up by more than 20 times.
“I was the lowest of the base prices because I just wanted to get picked up by a team. When my name came up I was nervous, giddy and jumpy. The bidding was quite slow but once it hit 10 crore I knew it was big money – but it kept going,” he told The Guardian.
“When it finished I did not know how much it was worth. When I worked it out I could not believe it, it did not seem real. It’s an amount of money that can change your life. It will for me.”
Of course, it does.
And, as Rabada found out on Monday, it also gets you lots of patronage as his Twitter account exploded with congratulatory messages after news filtered through that he had also struck it rich at the IPL auction.
He sparked a fierce bidding war for his signature between Dehli Daredevils and the Kings XI Punjab which ensured that his final selling price, which is around R10 million, had spiked considerably by the time he was sold.
It has been a sensational rise for the young 21-year-old South African pacer who has been forced, in recent months, to spearhead the cause of his country in the absence of pace spearhead Dale Steyn, responding to the challenge with distinction across all formats of the game, and showing he is a real class act.
With AB de Villiers being retained by his franchise for US$1.417 million, David Miller being retained for US$1.865 million, Chris Morris for US$1.044 million and Faf du Plessis at US$597,000, it means that there will be US$6.682 million worth of South African talent on display at Season 10 of the IPL.
The Proteas have been flying of late and the other South African players who will grace the IPL this year are Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Hashim Amla and Tabraiz Shamsi.
But, what about Tahir, who this year celebrated his rise to become the number one bowler in limited overs cricket, bamboozling opponents with his guile while charming a legion of fans with his animated celebrations?
Somehow, he didn’t make it, and that’s a big surprise.