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Bengaluru: This is the year of Australia! After winning the World Test Championship, regaining the Ashes and then lifting the ICC ODI World Cup for a record-extending sixth time, two players who were vital cogs in that sensational bull run laughed their way to the banks in the IPL mini-auction in Dubai on Tuesday.

Just when the excitement had settled down after Australian skipper Pat Cummins set a new auction record by being picked up by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whopping Rs 20.50 crore, his fast-bowling partner in crime Mitchell Starc set the cricketing world on fire as Kolkata Knight Riders splurged an eye-popping Rs 24.75 crore for the southpaw’s services.

Moment Starc and Cummins made themselves available for the IPL 2024 in a bid to prepare themselves in the best manner possible for the ICC T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and United States in June next year, they were tipped to rake in the moolah.

And there was no surprise at the Coca Cola Arena as SRH and KKR, possessing pre-auction budgets of Rs 34 crore and Rs 32.7 crore respectively, chose to go all-out on the two players they felt would be the X-factors in pursuit of glory.

Starc was the sixth player to be picked from Set 4 (capped fast bowlers). Instantly cameras panned across the auction room to see which franchise was going to raise the paddle first for the ever-smiling 33-year-old who had stayed out of the IPL since 2015 season to focus on giving his 100 percent for the country and spend the remaining time with family.

Five-time champions Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals kick-started the bidding war before the latter pulled out at Rs 9.6 crore. Two-time champions KKR then threw their hat into the ring when Mumbai backed out at 9.8 crore. For a brief moment, KKR thought they were getting their asset for a cut-price deal when Gujarat Titans came thundering in at Rs 10 crore. The action just picked up from there as GT and KKR kept raising the paddle, not stopping even after Starc surpassed Cummins’ mark of 20.50 crore.

A round of applause erupted at the venue but the tables of GT and KKR saw intense discussions. It certainly was about whether they keep going or stop. Stunningly, they refused to relent as other teams watched the mayhem unfold with glee on their faces. A collective sigh ensued when Starc’s price breached 24 crore. GT pushed the bar to 24.50 crore and KKR, after a long discussion between CEO Venky Mysore and mentor Gautam Gambhir, upped the ante to 24.75 crore. GT then bailed out as a smiling Mysore hugged Gambhir for securing the deal.

“Somebody told me just now before Starc’s bid, they put up something like a historic bid. Very quickly history changed,” a smiling Mysore said in a press conference. “Starc was a preferred player from that skillset standpoint. We were not successful in some bids, so that favoured us. We were just happy to have him on our side.”

Before Starc, it was Cummins who broke Sam Curran’s record of 18.50 crore set in December 2022 mini auction. Cummins had skipped the IPL earlier this year as he wanted to channel his focus on the three major events for his country. Given his admirable leadership skills apart from being a fantastic pacer and dangerous batter, teams were definitely going to try their best in procuring him and SRH succeeded following an intense war with Royal Challengers Bangalore.

It was heavyweights Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians who started the bidding before the latter exited at 4.8 crore. RCB stepped in 5 crore and battled with CSK when the latter exited at 7.8 crore. But before RCB could delight themselves, SRH barged in at 8 crore and then duo kept battling until RCB decided to call it off at 20.50.

Starc and Cummins, who chose country over IPL at different stages of their career, could not have been happier to see their respective values skyrocket. A spectacular return for the duo for the annual cricketing spectacle.

(Published 19 December 2023, 22:11 IST)

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