Watson the top draw as stars sold at IPL auction

Shane Watson was in demand
Shane Watson was in demand

Australia’s Shane Watson attracted a top bid of $1.4 million (£968,000) and will join the Bangalore franchise for the next edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, while former England batsman Kevin Pietersen was bought by newcomers Pune.

All-rounder Watson, 34, was in high demand in last Saturday’s (6) auction for the cash-rich tournament, the ninth edition of which will be played from April 9 to May 29.

“Incredibly excited to join such a great franchise. Looking forward to joining up with my new team mates in April,” he said on Twitter.

Watson will join a Bangalore team boasting power-hitters Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli as well as Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc.

Bangalore director Amrit Thomas said the addition of a utility player like Watson would make his team more competitive.

South African speedster Dale Steyn, laid low by injuries, was the last man to be auctioned in the first round at $500,000 (£345,325).

Aaron Finch, Australia’s T20 captain, went unsold in the first round but was picked up by Rajkot at his base price of Rs 10 million (£101,600) after being invited back in the

In-form New Zealand opening batsman Martin Guptill was also unsold in the first round of auction for marquee players.

South Africa fast bowler Chris Morris, valued at Rs 5m (£50,900), fetched Rs 70m (£712,600) from Delhi after three franchises showed an interest.

Delhi won another bidding war for West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite for Rs 42m (£427,600) and England wicketkeeper batsman Jos Buttler went to Mumbai for Rs 38 million (£386,900).

Pune, which will be led by India’s limited-overs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coached by former New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming, outbid fellow newcomers Rajkot to
land Pietersen for Rs 35m (£356,300).

The out-of-favour batsman last played for England in 2014 but proved his worth in the recent Big Bash League with the Melbourne Stars.

Pune and Rajkot were unveiled as the new teams in the Twenty20 competition, replacing Chennai and Rajasthan who were recently suspended for two years for their role in an illegal betting scandal.

All-rounder Pawan Negi, who was named in India’s World Twenty20 squad last Friday (5), attracted the highest bid among Indians and was bought by Delhi for Rs 85m (£865,400).

India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, who fetched Rs 160m (£1.62m) at last year’s auction, will play for the Hyderabad franchise after being bought for Rs 70m (£712,600).

The IPL, boasting an enviable brand value with Bollywood stars and big businesses as investors, has been dogged by controversies ever since its first edition in 2008.

The 2013 IPL season saw police launch legal proceedings against several officials and players from Rajasthan and Chennai franchises over a betting and spot-fixing scandal.

Both Chennai and Rajasthan are expected to return to the IPL after their bans end following the 2017 edition.