Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Business vies with glitz at IPL auction

Indian Premier League's Lalit Modi (c), Bollywood actress and co-owner of Kings XI Punjab Preity Zinta (R) and Bollywood actress and co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals, Shilpa Shetty
Shilpa Shetty (l) and Preity Zinta (r) add to the IPL gloss in Goa

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Goa

When the Indian Premier League (IPL) had its first auction last year, the likes of Bollywood stars Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta inspired excitement and lavish spending on favourite players.

The glitz could still be found this time round, with the latest IPL stakeholder, actress and UK Celebrity Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty, among the throng.

But even though commentators were stressing there is no such thing as a credit crunch in Indian cricket, this year in Goa the strategy was ultimately one of good old fashioned business sense.

Last year more than 70 players were bought, but this time only 17 slots were up for grabs for a total purse of $13.59m.

Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff
Both Pietersen and Flintoff have broken the previous IPL transfer record

With the benefit of experience from the first season, tighter budgets and limited player slots, the franchisees seemed to have made careful and practical bids this time.

That did not stop English players Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen from being the most expensive players in the league, going for a price higher than the most costly player last year - India's MS Dhoni.

Bangalore's owner Vijay Mallya said: "I was always keen to get Pietersen. He would be a superb addition to the team. We had a list of players before the auction and KP topped that list. We needed to strengthen our batting."

The closed-door auction took place in a luxury hotel in Goa where franchisees - no doubt buoyed by the winter sunshine and the relaxed atmosphere of the tourist season - waited eagerly with wallets in hand to make their acquisitions ahead of the new IPL season in April.

Bollywood stars have contributed to the success of the IPL by making music videos, promoting brands and endorsing team outfits.

But Ms Shetty - who has a stake in the Rajasthan Royals - insisted she left all the decision making to the experts.

Local talent

There were fewer journalists this year - last year more than 300 reporters squeezed into a room to report on the auction - and the press conference was quieter and less dramatic.

Even so, Indian cricket is not short of money and has a fan base other countries can only dream about.

Mashrafe Bin Mortaza
Mortaza joined Kolkata for $600,000, 12 times his reserve price
The common refrain was there was "no recession in Indian cricket" and that all international players would be eager to join the IPL given that it was a lot of money for playing such a short time. The event runs from 10 April to 29 May.

The big auction surge was for Bangladeshi fast bowler, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza.

His starting price began at a mere $50,000 - but went 12 times over to $600,000 when the Kolkata Knightriders finally secured his services against stiff competition from the Kings XI Punjab.

The Kings XI later bought Jerome Taylor, the West Indian fast bowler, at his base price of $150,000.

The Rajasthan Royals picked up South African Tyron Henderson for a whopping $650,000 - six times the base price.

Franchisees were quizzed over their commitment to local talent amid the clamour to sign the foreign stars.

But they argued that the IPL had in fact boosted the careers of young domestic players like Yusuf Pathan and Abhishek Nayar.

Last year there was endless debate over how the IPL would affect the purity of the game and what it meant for cricket in general.

However, this time the media and viewers seem to have accepted the Twenty20 format as here-to-stay.

The IPL auction looks like it will become a long-term fixture, driven as it is by market forces, profits and big bucks.

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