BENGALURU, AFP: England players attracted megabucks bids in the Indian Premier League auction Monday, with all-rounder Ben Stokes setting a new record for a foreigner by joining the Rising Pune Supergiants for more than $2m.
England pace bowler Tymal Mills was the big surprise as he went to the Royal Challengers Bangalore for $1.8m, even though he has only played four Twenty20 internationals.
The winning bids for Stokes and Mills dwarfed the $300,000 shelled out by the Kings XI Punjab to secure the services of England's limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan for the T20 tournament, which begins in April.
Stokes attracted multiple bids from the rival franchises competing in the eight-team tournament before the gavel finally came down after Pune put in a bid of $2.16m.
The winning bid shattered the previous record paid for a foreign player, which was set in 2014 when the Delhi Daredevils shelled out 90 million rupees for former England captain Kevin Pietersen.
But it is still short of the 160 million rupees that the Royal Challengers Bangalore paid for the Indian batsman Yuvraj Singh in 2015.
While a percentage of the auction fee goes to the player's national board, Stokes, England's newly anointed Test vice-captain, is now in line to make more in just seven weeks than he would in a whole year of cricket for the England team.
It was not immediately clear whether Stokes will play the whole tournament or leave towards the end, which would result in a reduced pay cheque, as England are due to play two ODI matches against Ireland in May.
Pune coach Stephen Fleming admitted it was something of a "gamble" to pay so much for a player with a history of injury problems, but that Stokes will add extra flair to a team that already has Australia captain Steven Smith and ex-Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in its ranks.
"It's a risk but we are ready to take it. We have got all-round options and (it) gives us more options down the order," the former New Zealand captain told reporters.
"We are going to put youngsters under big players and keep our fingers crossed."
Stokes has had his share of verbal run-ins with Australia in Ashes Test matches but Smith welcomed him with open arms and joked that he expected his new team-mate to buy him a drink now he was flush with cash.
"Welcome to Pune @benstokes38 first round is on you!" Smith wrote on Twitter.
While Stokes had been expected to attract big bids, the fee for Mills was unexpected but underlines his form on England's recent tour of India, when he was his side's most economical fast bowler.
Bangalore have no shortage of batting talent with Indian skipper Virat Kohli and South Africa's A B de Villiers already on board.
But Mills' signing should address the lack of a top-quality fast bowler for last year's beaten finalists.
Other players to hit the jackpot included New Zealand seamer Trent Boult and South Africa's Kagiso Rabda who were both sold for around 50 million rupees each for Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils respectively.
The auction also saw the first Afghan players to be signed up to the tournament, with Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi going to Sunrisers Hyderabad for 40 million and three million respectively.
While most of India's big name players are already attached to franchises, several newcomers bagged lucrative deals such as Karn Sharma (Mumbai Indians - 32 million rupees) and T. Natarajan (Kings XI Punjab - 30 million rupees).
The IPL, which was first held in 2008, begins on April 5 and runs until May 21.