Mumbai: India one-day captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Australian Andrew Symonds were the big winners as the world's top cricketers landed huge paydays at the Twenty20 Indian Premier League auction.
Dhoni was snapped up by Chennai for a cool 1.5 million dollars, nearly four times his base price of 400,000 dollars, in the opening round of the unprecedented sell-off.
Symonds went to Hyderabad for 1.35 million dollars, which he will earn over just 44 days in the debut IPL tournament starting on April 18, which is tipped to change the face of the game. All 77 players auctioned will receive their bid price as an annual wage over the next three years.
Symonds' team-mate Brett Lee was bought by Mohali for 900,000 dollars while Australia captain Ricky Ponting went to Kolkata for 400,000 dollars in the marathon auction held over nine hours at a glitzy five-star hotel.
Eight franchise owners, including corporate tycoons and Bollywood actors, bid for the players to contest the richest tournament in cricket history, which has already raised more than a billion dollars in funding.
"It's a landmark day. I have not seen anything like this before. It has been amazing," said IPL governing council member Inderjit Singh Bindra.
"This is for the first time that market forces are determining the price of a player. This is how free market economy works."
The spending of eight teams -- Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mumbai and Mohali -- was capped at five million dollars for a maximum of eight overseas players.
The tournament will be the first time international cricketers will put aside national allegiances to play for privately owned teams.
Indians Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag were given 'iconic' status and will lead their home sides.
Although they were not part of the auction, each will receive 15 percent more than his highest-paid team-mate.
Among other highlights of the auction, Mumbai paid 975,000 dollars for hard-hitting Sri Lankan batsman Sanath Jayasuriya and 850,000 dollars for Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Rising Indian star Ishant Sharma was the highest-paid bowler, going for 950,000 dollars to Kolkata, while retired Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath went to Delhi for 350,000 dollars and Mike Hussey for the same amount to Chennai.
Celebrated leg-spinner Shane Warne was bought by Jaipur at his base price of 450,000 dollars, while fellow Australian Adam Gilchrist went to Hyderabad for 700,000 dollars.
Record-breaking Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was bought by Chennai for 600,000 dollars, while his national captain Mahela Jayawardene went to Mohali for 475,000 dollars.
Kolkata bought controversial Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar for 425,000 dollars.
IPL chairman Lalit Modi conceded there was a lot of fluctuation in the bids. "The rationale for this can be explained only by the franchisees. They may have been swayed by the players' personality, glamour and endorsement (value)," he said.
"Dhoni and Symonds were bid across the board."
The IPL was conceived to counter the rebel Indian Cricket League, which recently held its tournament in northern India with big names such as West Indies' Brian Lara and Pakistan's Inzamam-ul-Haq.
It is the brainchild of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and is backed by the International Cricket Council.
Million dollar club:
Chennai: Dhoni ($1.5m)
Hyderabad: Symonds ($1.35m)
Mumbai: Tendulkar (icon-$1.2m- next best Jayasuriya $975,000)
Mohali: Yuvraj (icon-$1.03m- Brett Lee $900,000)
Bangalore: Dravid (icon-$1.03m-Kallis $900,000)