BANGALORE, Jan 8 (IANS) - There were no takers for former India captain Sourav Ganguly and West Indian hard-hitter Chris Gayle while Gautam Gambhir fetched a record $2.4 million as corporate honchos, Bollywood stars and cricket experts gathered to value players at the Indian Premier League (IPL) season four auction here Saturday.
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan's Kolkata Knight Riders, which had been among the bottom-placed teams in the first three editions of IPL, made some smart buying to net Gambhir, big-hitter Yusuf Pathan ($2.1m) and South African star Jacques Kallis ($1.1m).
Seated eight to a table at the over 7,000 sq ft pillar-less Mysore Hall of ITC Royal Gardenia Hotel here, were the who's who of India's business, Bollywood and cricketing world. Liqour baron Vijay Mallya, his son Siddharth and Anil Kumble were representing the Royal Challengers Bangalore team while Nita Ambani was at the forefront for Mumbai Indians' bidding. Bollywood stars Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta were present for Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab.
The much-awaited IPL auction potboiler had a stirring start with four teams locked in a fierce battle to corner gritty Indian opener Gambhir, who led Delhi Daredevils last season.
Gambhir was at a lowest base price of $200,000, but the moment renowned auctioneer Richard Madley called Gambhir's name, it was a mad scramble for eight minutes.
An intense race followed to get him with five teams - Kochi, Pune, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders - furiously challenging each other.
In fact, it was Subroto Roy's Pune Warriors who had bid first for Gambhir, before Mumbai and Bangalore joined the fray. Kolkata entered the scene at $2 million and then pitched in aggressively to snatch Gambhir away.
Gambhir surpassed Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, who were bankrolled by Bangalore and Chennai two years back for $1.5 million each.
Pietersen, who came as a star in the IPL second season, was valued at just $650,000 this time by Deccan Chargers.
However, the shocker at the auction was when the worst fears came true.
Ganguly, who had a nightmarish stint with KKR as captain and player, was the first to go in the unsold basket.
Interestingly, Ganguly, who was the oldest Indian player up for auction at 38 years and six months, had increased his base price from $200,000 to $400,000, which is the highest bracket reserved for marquee players in the league.
Knight Riders were clearly not interested in Ganguly as he was not retained for this season.
As Ganguly's name was called, there was a eerie silence in the room and the spotlight was on the Knight Riders' table. The KKR team think tank looked down as Ganguly's name was repeatedly called before he went unsold.
It is speculated that the former India captain might join one of the new franchisees as player-cum-mentor like Shane Warne is for Rajasthan Royals.
There was more surprise in store as Ganguly's KKR teammate Chris Gayle, who was in the $400,000 bracket, also met his fate.
For a time it looked as if VVS Laxman, who had also increased his base price, would too go unsold, but new team Kochi thought it wise to take the renowned Test batsman for the base price of $400,000.
Rahul Dravid, who had his share of trouble with Royal Challengers Bangalore, fetched a slightly higher price than his base tag of $400,000 with Rajasthan Royals shelling out $500,000 for the former India captain.
Royal Challengers did not bid for Dravid.
Australian Andrew Symonds, who had retired from international cricket, was bought by Mumbai Indians for $850,000. Symonds and Harbhajan Singh, one of the four players retained by Mumbai Indians, will now be playing for the same team. The two have been involved in some vicious on field spat after Symonds accused the Indian off-spinner of racially abusing him in the controversial Sydney Test.
New teams Pune Warriors and Kochi had some good catches. Kochi took home boy S. Sreesanth for $900,00, VVS Laxman ($400,000), Rudra Pratap Singh ($500,000), Mahela Jayawardene ($1.5m) and Brendon McCullum ($475,000).
Pune bought Yuvraj Singh ($1.8m), Graeme Smith ($500,00) and Robin Uthappa ($2.1m).
Chennai Super Kings is the only team not to open their account in the first session.