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Prince of good times

Thursday, 13 February 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

Call it a jackpot, a new lease of life or a poor business decision by the Royal Challengers Bangalore think-tank, but all Yuvraj Singh was bothered about on Wednesday evening was the big party. "What time's the gangnam? @imVkohli @henrygayle @ABdeVilliers17," tweeted the man who went from 'puttar' to 'maga' in the space of three minutes at the IPL auction here on Wednesday.

On a day when every other official put up a brave front in the wake of the Mudgal Committee's revelations, BCCI president N Srinivasan set foot into the ITC Gardenia to a regal welcome before holding a series of meetings to formulate the board's plan of action. Otherwise, it was business as usual.

In the company of skipper Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers, he could certainly give the team's top order an impregnable look, one that could propel the Vijay Mallya-owned franchise to their maiden IPL title by the end of May. But what his jaw-dropping salary — Rs 14 crore, easily the highest — did was raise two questions: a) does he deserve that much?; and b) how do RCB propose to fill up their remaining slots with less than Rs 2 crore in the kitty?

Here are the bare facts: the man of the 2011 World Cup isn't even part of the ODI squad for the Asia Cup. That he made the cut for the World Twenty20 was also surprising. It's a different matter, though, that Yuvraj was sold for Rs 10 crore before Kolkata Knight Riders complained that the auctioneer hadn't spotted their raised paddle. Barely 20 seconds after Richard Madley reopened the bid, Yuvraj broke the proverbial ceiling. Mallya appeared a tad disappointed at the extra cash he had to shell out, but the philosopher in him looked at the bright side of things. "Life goes on. The bottom line is we are very, very happy," he said.

After revealing that it was Kohli who wanted Yuvraj on board, Mallya went about his business with diligence, acquiring eight more players for a total of Rs 14.7 crore. He's got to fill at least four — ideally 8-10 — with the remaining Rs 1.8 crore with a 'right to match' card at his disposal.

"The cat doesn't jump over the moon," advertising guru Alyque Padamsee said in his tyical style. "I dearly love Yuvraj, but I don't think you pay Rs 14 crore for a player who's woefully out of form. There is something fishy here," he added.

Dinesh Karthik was the other big 'crorepati' of the day, the wicketkeeper-batsman going to Delhi Daredevils for an equally stunning Rs 12.5 crore. With no 'baggage' (read retained players) and Rs 60 crore in the kitty, Delhi picked 13 players, including superstar Kevin Pietersen through the 'joker' card, with a cool Rs 8.6 crore to splash on uncapped and unsold players on Day Two. Karthik could well lead the side.

Karthik was primed to be pursued by Mumbai Indians, but it were Delhi and, later, Hyderabad, who went after him. Kolkata made their presence felt when the bid had crossed the Rs 10-crore mark, but they promptly withdrew to let Delhi have the last laugh.

Smart spending was the underlying theme and teams only went for those players who they knew would be available throughout the league. No wonder then that Mahela Jayawardene and most of his compatriots, including Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews, went unsold. Sri Lanka are set to tour England in May.

As expected, Corey Anderson pocketed a cool sum — Rs 4.5 crore — and joined Mumbai Indians. The defending champions also bought Michael Hussey, Zaheer Khan and Josh Hazlewood besides using their only 'joker' card to get back Pragyan Ojha.

Rajasthan Royals were smart as ever, not chasing superstars but utility players like Steve Smith and Brad Hodge. Chennai went for Faf du Plessis through the 'joker' card before buying — curiously enough — a wicketkeeper in Brendon McCullum. "We like thinkers, leaders," is how a team official justified the bid.

Hyderabad bought David Warner and Aaron Finch among others, while Kolkata grabbed Jacques Kallis, Robin Uthappa and Morne Morkel.

Virender Sehwag almost went unsold before Kings XI Punjab started the bid and eventually bought him for Rs 3.2 crore. They also bought Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell and George Bailey, much to Preity Zinta's delight.

Thursday will be about the 300-odd uncapped players and, of course, a few of the unsold players.


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