Smriti Mandhana stole the thunder in the inaugural Women's Premier League (WPL) auctions as Royal Challengers Bangalore pipped Mumbai Indians in a bidding war to buy the India vice-captain for Rs 3.40 crore (USD 410,000) in Mumbai on Monday. (More Cricket News)
On a day when 10 Indian players got crore-plus deals, skipper Harmanpreet Kaur came much cheaper for Mumbai Indians at nearly half the price of Mandhana at Rs 1.80 crore. Harmanpreet is also not the highest paid in her team where England's Nat Sciver-Brunt got way more at Rs 3.20 crore.
In fact, Harmanpreet was not even among the top-six Indian buys as the second costliest player from the country is all-rounder Deepti Sharma, who was bought by UP Warriorz for Rs 2.6 crore.
The hard-hitting Shafali Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues, the star of the T20 World Cup win against Pakistan on Sunday, were picked by Delhi Capitals for Rs 2 crore and Rs 2.20 crore respectively. All-rounders Pooja Vastrakar and Richa Ghosh laughed their way to the bank with Rs 1.90 crore deals each offered by MI and RCB, respectively.
Jemimah and Richa's deals were also a case of recency bias as the Pakistan match on Sunday did play a big role.
Yastika Bhatia, who opened the batting with Shafali Verma against Pakistan, went to Mumbai Indians for Rs 1.5 crore.
The two other Indians who got crore-plus deals were Renuka Thakur (bought by RCB at Rs 1.5 crore) and Devika Vaidya (bought by UP Warriorz at Rs 1.4 crore).
However, Delhi Capitals pulled off a coup by roping in one of contemporary women's cricket's best leaders Meg Lanning of Australia for Rs 1.10 crore.
The RCB, which teed off the buying spree, also explained their choices and the price attached to it.
"Everyone knows Mandhana and (Australia's Elysse) Perry -- Rs 1.7 crore); we were pretty committed to the couple of people we wanted to get. We're very happy to get such quality players. It's a dream result for us to get Mandhana, Perry and (Sophie) Devine (Rs 50 lakh)," RCB Director of Cricket Mike Hesson said during a media interaction.
"Smriti has got plenty of captaincy experience and is familiar with the Indian conditions, so highly likely (she'll be the captain)."
Mandhana, who watched the auction with her team cheering each bid, was ecstatic.
"We have been watching auction of men's (players). It is such a big moment for women to have an auction of this sort. The whole thing is exacting. RCB's legacy is big, they have built a big fan-base. Hope we both can together build a big team," Mandhana said.
Deepti, on her part, said, "We waited for this opportunity and since I am from UP, it is a great feeling. I want to contribute as much as possible for UP Warriorz."
One of the prominent picks during the first round of auction was Australia's off-spin all-rounder Ashleigh Gardner, who was bought by Gautam Adani-owned Gujarat Giants for Rs 3.20 crore (USD 386,000). Gardner and Nat Sciver are the two highest-paid overseas players.
Gujarat primarily bought foreign players and are yet to buy prominent India players save Harleen Deol for Rs 40 lakh.
Star Australian all-rounder Perry received a cool Rs 1.70 crore (USD 205,000) winning bid from RCB, who also got New Zealand skipper Devine dirt cheap at a base price of Rs 50 lakh.
UP Warriorz also got England left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone on board for Rs 1.80 crore.
The five potential captains are Mandhana (RCB), Harmanpreet (MI), Lanning (DC), Beth Mooney (Gujarat Giants) and Deepti Sharma (UP Warriorz).
Some of the big names to miss out are Sri Lankan skipper Chamari Atapatthu and South African batter Laura Wolvaardt.
Delhi Capitals' co-owner Parth Jindal was happy with the players picked up during the auction, saying the strategy was not to go after the stars but build a good squad.
DC acquired batter Jemimah Rodrigues (Rs 2.2 crore) and all-rounders Radha Yadav (Rs 40 lakh) and Shikha Pandey (RS 60 lakh) along with the U-19 Women's T20 World Cup winners Shafali Verma (Rs 2 crore) and Titas Sadhu (RS 25 lakh) in the auction.
"Some of the early names that we went for, the prices went very high, so we had to pull out. But if we look back at how the three rounds have gone, we're happy. We have Jemimah, who has done tremendously well. And then Shafali, she has just won the U-19 World Cup.
"We are looking for all-rounders. We're looking for bowlers. We're looking to obviously make the squad. When we came into the auction, we had a very clear-cut strategy that we were going to build a very competitive squad of 15. We didn't want star players; we wanted a very good squad," said Jindal.