England's talismanic all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and deposed captain Kevin Pietersen on Friday became the highest priced auctioned cricketers in the Indian Premier League when they were bought for an identical amount of US $1.55 million by Chennai Super Kings and Bangalore Royal Challengers respectively.
Flintoff, one of the best all-round players in the game currently, went under the hammer as the third man in the list, IPL chairman Lalit Modi announced to the media after the first round of the Players' Auction.
"All the players auctioned today would be for a two-year term," he said.
Flintoff's turn came after first edition winners Rajasthan Royals purchased Australian speedster Shaun Tait for $ 375,000 -- $ 175,000 more than his reserve price -- and Mumbai Indians bought emerging South African batsman Jean Paul Duminy for a staggering $950,000, which was more than three times his reserve price of $300,000.
Then came the buying of Pietersen by Bangalore's Royal Challengers, who finished seventh among eight teams in the inaugural edition. With compatriot Flintoff, he became the highest-priced cricketers thus far in the League.
Till now India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the highest purchased player, in the first auction last year, when Chennai Super Kings paid $1.5 million to buy him. He then led the team to a second-place finish behind Rajasthan Royals.
Bangalore franchise team owner Vijay Mallya told reporters after his high-profile purchase of Pietersen that the English cricketer would bring the much-needed meat to their batting and balance to the squad.
"He's a superb addition to our team and I was very keen to purchase him. I got him for a price I was willing to pay. We needed to strengthen our batting. I would like him to play for all six weeks (of the League), if not this year then next year," said Mallya.
"We looked at the balance of the team after exchanging Zaheer Khan with Robin Uthappa. We have South Africans, Australians and team balance was important. I was keen to buy Kevin to give it the balance. We are delighted to buy him," he added.
Asked about the likelihood of Pietersen captaining the team, which was led by Rahul Dravid last year, Mallya said, "The option is open and it will be decided by the team management."
N Srinivasan, Managing Director of India Cements, which owns the Chennai Super Kings franchise, and is also the Board of Control for Cricket in India's secretary, was also very pleased with his team's purchase of Flintoff even though he, like Pietersen, would be available to play in the April-May IPL for only three weeks.
"He's an outstanding all-rounder. We targetted Flintoff to improve our balance," Srinivasan said and brushed aside queries how he felt now that he had bought the English player at a higher price than what he had paid last year for Dhoni, who was bought for $ 1.5 million for three years.
"This is a different auction," Srinivasan said, adding that three or four other franchisees were also interested in buying Flintoff.
Modi said there was aggressive bidding for Duminy, whose stock has gone up following his superb display both in the Test and ODI series against Australia Down Under.
"There was aggressive bidding for him and he was bought for $950,000," he said.