The auction for the first-ever Women’s Premier League (WPL), a landmark moment in the history of women’s cricket, concluded on Monday.
The affair was full of surprises, wholesome moments, unpredictability and thrill that can change the sport and thousands of lives associated with it for the better. The auction started off with a bang, with Indian star opener Smriti Mandhana becoming the first-ever player to be picked.
Royal Challengers Bangalore splurged a massive sum of $593K, making her the most expensive player in WPL. Just moments later, her skipper and batting star Harmanpreet Kaur was picked up by Mumbai Indians for $314K.
International talent from Australia got a lot of attention in the auction. Ashleigh Gardner, the No.1 allrounder in women’s T20Is, has attracted the joint second-highest bid of $558,000 at the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) auction.
The subject of a fierce three-team bidding war, Gardner was bought by the Adani Group-owned Gujarat Giants, the last of the three franchises to express their interest in the 25-year-old during the auction on Monday afternoon.
The new tournament will last 23 days, from March 4-26.
With Rachael Haynes, who was recently recruited as the Giants head coach, present at the auction table at the Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai, the imprint of the former Australia captain on the side picking Gardner was unmistakable.
Gardner, for her part, watched the auction live on her phone, alongside Australia team-mates Megan Schutt and Kim Garth, from the sidelines of her team’s afternoon training at St George’s Park in Gqeberha ahead of their T20 World Cup fixture against Bangladesh on Tuesday.
“Ashleigh’s such a great allrounder,” Australia head coach Shelley Nietschke said after the team’s practice session. “She delivers in three skills. She’s been really important to
us over the last 12 months to two years, and even beyond that.
“But I think what we’re finding in recent times is she’s really coming into her game and maturing as a cricketer. So she plays a key role for us.
“It was fantastic to see her perform with the ball and her career-best figures against New Zealand. I’m looking forward to seeing what the tournament (WPL) brings for her.”
Gardner, who returned her career-best figures in T20Is – 5 for 12 – in Australia’s opening fixture at the T20 World Cup against New Zealand, had a reserve price of $87,000.
She was the fifth player from the seven-member Set 1 to go under the hammer after India’s Smriti Mandhana, the first and most expensive player to be sold on the day at $593,000, and Harmanpreet Kaur, New Zealand’s Sophie Devine and the unsold Hayley Matthews.
England’s Natalie Sciver-Brunt was snapped up at the same price as Gardner by Mumbai.
They also bought Heather Graham, who had picked a hat-trick in Mumbai two months ago, for $52,000 towards the close of the auction that lasted almost six hours.
Ellyse Perry was the second Australian to be bought. Royal Challengers Bangalore shelled out $297,000 on the star allrounder, with Beth Mooney ($350,000/Gujarat) later surpassing her as the second-most expensive Australian buy.
No.1-ranked T20I batter Tahlia McGrath ($245,000/UP), Australia captain Meg Lanning ($192,000/Delhi Capitals), vice-captain Alyssa Healy ($122,000/UP), allrounder Annabel Sutherland ($122,000/Gujarat) also picked up impressive bids.
Medium-pacer Megan Schutt and wrist-spinner Alana King were the first two Australians to go unsold. However, when Schutt went under the hammer for a second time, Bangalore, who hired Sydney Sixers head coach Ben Sawyer in the same role, picked her up at her base price of $70,000.
They also made the winning bid for Erin Burns, who isn’t part of Australia’s T20 World Cup squad, for $52,000.
Left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen was snapped up by Delhi for $87,000 for the second time asking. King’s name also came up twice, but she found no takers.
Garth and Tess Flintoff were the other Australians to feature on the final list at the auction who went unsold.
Gujarat outbid Bangalore to secure the services of legspinner Georgia Wareham for $131,000.
The coveted Harris sisters — Grace ($131,000) and Laura ($78,300) – were bought by UP and Delhi, respectively, after closely contested bidding wars.
A total of 87 players were bought at the auction, 30 of those being overseas recruits.
Australia accounted for the highest representation from a single country.
Only one Associate player – USA’s Tara Norris – found any takers
Here are the squads of WPL teams:
Delhi Capitals: Jemimah Rodrigues, Meg Lanning, Shafali Verma, Radha Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Marizanne Kapp, Titas Sadhu, Alice Capsey, Tara Norris, Laura Harris, Jasia Akhtar, Minnu Mani, Poonam Yadav, Taniya Bhatia. Jess Jonassen, Sneha Deepthi, Arundhati Reddy, Aparna Mondal.
Gujarat Giants: Ashleigh Gardner, Beth Mooney, Sophia Dunkley, Annabel Sutherland, Harleen Deol, Deandra Dottin, Sneh Rana, S Meghana, Georgia Wareham, Mansi Joshi, Dayalan Hemalatha, Monica Patel, Tanuja Kanwer, Sushma Verma, Hurley Gala, Ashwani Kumari, Parunika Sisodia, Shabman Shakil.
Mumbai Indians: Harmanpreet Kaur, Nat Sciver-Brunt, Amelia Kerr, Pooja Vastrakar, Yastika Bhatia, Heather Graham, Issy Wong, Amanjot Kaur, Dhara Gujjar, Saika Ishaque, Hayley Matthews, Chloe Tryon, Priyanka Bala, Humairaa Kaazi, Neelam Bisht, Jintamani Kalita, Sonam Yadav.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Smriti Mandhana, Sophie Devine, Ellyse Perry, Renuka Singh, Richa Ghosh, Indrani Roy, Disha Kasat, Shreyanka Patil, Kanika Ahuja, Asha Shobhana, Erin Burns, Heather Knight, Dane van Niekerk, Preeti Bose, Poonam Khemnar, Komal Zanzad, Megan Schutt, Sahana Pawar.
UP Warriorz: Sophie Ecclestone, Deepti Sharma, Tahlia McGrath, Shabnim Ismail, Alyssa Healy, Anjali Sarvani, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Parshavi Chopra, Shweta Sehrawat, S Yashasri, Kiran Navgire, Grace Harris, Devika Vaidya, Lauren Bell, Laxmi Yadav, Simran Shaikh.