PROVEN Test greats Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting's high-risk strategy of placing the maximum Indian Premier League auction price on their heads only barely paid off as teams instead clamoured over Australia's unproven all-rounders and three pacemen well down the national team's pecking order.
Clarke and Ponting were each sold for their reserve price of $US400,000 ($384,310), equating to their annual salary for for the two-month IPL season, respectively to Pune and Mumbai. The sale of Ponting was particularly fraught as the auctioneer actually passed him in because of a lack of interest before changing his mind after belatedly noticing Mumbai owner Neeta Ambani had her arm raised to bid.
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Ambani was the key player involving Australians at the auction. As well as purchasing Ponting - who will play in the same team as fellow Test great Sachin Tendulkar - she snared Phillip Hughes for $US100,000 and Glenn Maxwell for the highest price fetched at the auction, $1 million, and also unheralded West Australian paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Maxwell, who made little impression as a replacement player for Delhi last season, had put a $US200,000 price on his head but benefited from a fierce bidding battle between Mumbai and the IPL's newest team, the Tom Moody-led Sunrisers Hyderabad.
While Maxwell is on the cusp of Test selection, two young pacemen with only a single international appearance between them reaped $1.15 million between them, despite each having set only a $US100,000 minimum.
South Australian Kane Richardson, whose recent one-day debut for Australia ended with him being ordered out of the attack for running on the pitch, was bought by $US700,000 by Pune, while Coulter-Nile attracted a successful bid of $US450,000 from Mumbai. Both pacemen, respectively 21 and 25, are also powerful lower-order hitters.
Chennai effectively replaced one Australian left-armer, Doug Bollinger, with another on a comparable wage, Dirk Nannes for $US650,000. Bollinger, who has enjoyed successful stints for the Super Kings, attracted no bids for his base price of $US200,000, well below his previous price of $US700,000.
Nannes was among the players cited, along with Brad Hogg and Brad Hodge, by chief Australian selector John Inverarity as being too old to be leading contenders for national-team recalls.
Recent one-day debutant James Faulkner was, like Maxwell and Richardson, a beneficiary of fierce bidding competition as he was bought by Rajasthan for $US400,000, four times his base price. Ambani explained why her team had been very keen to recruit Maxwell, a 24-year-old from Belgrave South in outer Melbourne. ''He's a great fielder and we wanted a young all-rounder,'' she said.
Maxwell, Hughes, Ponting and Coulter-Nile will join a large Australian contingent at Mumbai, as Mitchell Johnson and Aiden Blizzard are already contracted to the Indians. Ambani said she was rapt her team would boast Ponting alongside Tendulkar.
''We have now two cricketing greats in our team, we have Sachin and Ricky. Both of them will be great inspirations to our youngsters in the team,'' she said.
The most resurgent batsman in the Big Bash League, Luke Pomersbach, was prepared to play for only $US50,000 but was purchased for $US300,000 by Punjab, the team his Brisbane Heat and Queensland coach Darren Lehmann has recently joined. Recent Test squad inclusion Moises Henriques attracted the same price, from Kolkata.
Other players who went unsold included Aaron Finch and Matthew Wade (both $US200,000), Daniel Christian, James Hopes, Stephen O'Keefe, Tim Paine and Adam Voges (all $US100,000) and Ben Rohrer ($US50,000).
The lack of interest in Christian was a significant change to his previous auction appearance, where he was bought by the now-defunct Deccan Chargers for $US900,000.
Of the 10 unsold Australians the teams wanted auctioned for a second time Christian was one of only two - Clint McKay was the other - who was sold, with Christian joining Bangalore and McKay recruited by Pune - each for their base price of $US100,000.
All unsold players can still be signed for the new season, although only by teams that lose contracted players to injury.