BANGALORE: England players attracted megabucks bids in the Indian Premier League auction on Monday, with all-rounder Ben Stokes setting a new record for a foreigner by joining the Rising Pune Supergiants for more than $2 million.
England pace bowler Tymal Mills was the big surprise as he went to the Royal Challengers Bangalore for $1.8 million, even though he has only played four T20Is.
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 $2.16 million.
The winning bid shattered the previous record paid for a foreign player, which was set in 2014 when the Delhi Daredevils shelled out more than $1.3 million for former England captain Kevin Pietersen.
While a percentage of the auction fee goes to the player's national board, Stokes, England's newly appointed 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 Steve 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 teammate to buy him a drink now he was flush with cash.
Welcome to Pune @benstokes38 first round is on you!— Steve Smith (@stevesmith49) February 20, 2017
Other players to hit the jackpot included New Zealand seamer Trent Boult and South Africa's Kagiso Rabada, who were both sold for around Rs50 million each for Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils respectively.
The auction also saw the first Afghan players to be signed up in 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 - Rs32 million) and T. Natarajan (Kings XI Punjab - Rs30 million).
The ninth edition of the IPL, which was first held in 2008, begins on April 5 and runs until May 21.