The suspension of two IPL teams that looked set to be a financial blow for Shane Watson has become a financial boon, with the all-rounder surging to become Australia's highest-paid player in the competition with a $A1.96 million deal.
Mitch Marsh's return to the IPL auction after a two-year absence, while he was focusing on making the national team, was a profitable one as he more than doubled his base price in being bought for 48 million rupees ($A990k).
Marsh's one-day teammate in Wellington, John Hastings, was also rewarded for his excellent season that has seen him return to international ranks. He was snared by Kolkata for 13m ($A268k). All-rounder Marcus Stoinis, a late addition to Australia's one-day squad for New Zealand, was bought by Punjab for 5.5m rupees ($A113k).
The news was not as good for fellow Australia players Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch, George Bailey, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird and the recently returned Shaun Tait. Each failed to attract a bid at the first opportunity at their base price of 10m rupees ($A208k), nor did Kane Richardson and Mike Hussey at 20m rupees ($A416k) nor James Pattinson and Brad Haddin at 15m ($A312k). Incumbent Twenty20 spinner Cameron Boyce was also overlooked first time around for 5m rupees ($A104k), as were Ashton Agar, Ben Cutting and Nic Maddinson.
Recent Australia limited-overs debutants Andrew Tye and Joel Paris failed to attract a bid first time around at 3m rupees ($A62k), as did Saturday's debutant Adam Zampa.
By the time Travis Head was bought in the fourth hour of the auction — he joined Watson at the Royal Challengers for 5m rupees ($A104k) — he was just the fifth of 26 Australians to attract a bid at the first time they were offered for sale. By the lunch break, that had extended to just five of 31, or 32 if you include Australia-based Johan Botha.
Finch and Peter Handscomb found a home were they were auctioned for a second time, for their base price: Finch for 10m rupees ($A208k) at Gujarat under Brad Hodge, Handscomb for 3m rupees ($A62k) to Pune, under his Melbourne Stars coach Stephen Fleming.
Fleming went back to his BBL team twice at base prices more when players returned to the auction: Boland for 5m rupees ($A104k) and Zampa for 3m rupees ($A62k).
Tye and Cutting were each bought for 5m rupees ($A104k) the second time they were offered: Tye by Gujarat, Cutting by Hyderabad.
Richardson also eventually went for his base price of 20m rupees ($A208k),
Khawaja, Bailey, Mike Hussey and Bancroft were among those passed over for a second time.
Saturday's IPL auction was the first time Watson had featured in the auction since the inaugural auction, in 2008. Every year since then he has been with Rajasthan — he remains the only player to twice win player of the tournament — but his deal was annulled after the Royals and Chennai were each suspended for two years.
The new teams, Pune and Gujarat, each had the opportunity to take five players from the exiled teams at a pre-auction draft in mid-December. The fact that Australians Steve Smith and James Faulkner were taken but Watson was not was a sign of how the all-rounder's stocks had faded, as he drifted from Australian selectors' thoughts amid mediocre form in the Big Bash League. He could have have been taken for only 40m rupees ($A825k) but was overlooked.
The turning point for Watson was seemingly his encouraging batting form for Sydney Thunder to end the IPL, and then his bowling form in the Twenty20 series against India. Finishing that series with a commanding 124 not out from 71 deliveries almost a week ago proved to be an ideal audition for the auction.
A bidding war between Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai was the key to Watson's auction price soaring well above the hitherto top IPL deal for an Australia: Mitch Johnson's 65m ($A1.35m) agreement with Punjab.
Watson took to Twitter to express his delight and appreciation at finding a new home in the IPL after eight seasons with the Royals.
"Incredibly excited to join such a great franchise. Looking forward to joining up with my new teammates in April," the 34-year-old said.
In joining the Royal Challengers he will line up with countrymen Head, Richardson and Mitch Starc and international superstars Virat Kohli, A.B. de Villiers and Chris Gayle, and could possibly open with the last-named. A month ago Watson was typically frank when asked about Gayle's controversial post-innings interview in the BBL with Network Ten presenter Mel McLaughlin.
"The people who know Chris Gayle well know those are the sort of things that he can do at times — and at an inappropriate time — and obviously it gets him into a fair bit of trouble. I know Chris Gayle fairly well so that sort of thing is expected," Watson said.
It may be of little consequence, however, as the IPL has been home to many players who have publicly feuded, only to develop a decent, or better, relationship as teammates.
Even if the looming World Twenty20 proves to be Watson's international swansong this deal reflects the potential he has to maintain a lucrative career even without the cushion of a whopping Cricket Australia contract.
Shane Watson to Bangalore – 95m rupees ($A1.96m). Had base price of 20m ($A416k)
Mitch Marsh to Pune – 48m rupees ($A990k). Had base price of 20m ($A416k)
Kane Richardson to Bangalore – 20m rupees ($A416k). Same as base price.
John Hastings to Kolkata – 13m rupees ($A268k). Had base price of 10m rupees ($A208k)
Aaron Finch to Gujarat – 10m rupees ($A208k). Same as base price
Marcus Stoinis to Punjab – 5.5m rupees ($A113k). Had base price of 3m rupees ($A62k)
Travis Head to Bangalore – 5m rupees ($A104k). Had base price of 3m rupees ($A62k)
Ben Cutting to Hyderabad – 5m rupees ($A104k). Same as base price.
Andrew Tye to Gujarat – 5m rupees ($A104k). Had base price of 3m rupees ($A62k)
Scott Boland to Pune – 5m rupees ($A104k). Same as base price.
Peter Handscomb to Pune – 3m rupees ($A62k). Same as base price.
Joel Paris to Delhi – 3m rupees ($A62k). Same as base price.
Adam Zampa to Pune – 3m rupees ($A62k). Same as base price.