IPL 2014: Kevin Pietersen at centre of bidding war

Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen could be at the centre of a bidding war that makes him the most expensive player in Indian Premier League auction history on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old is available for the entire tournament for the first time after being sacked by England.

"He is such an awesome player that every franchise would like to have him," said Kings XI Punjab head of cricket operations Anant Sarkaria.

Former IPL chief Lalit Modi said Pietersen could cost a record £3m.

Pietersen has been given the highest possible reserve price of 20m rupees (£195,000), but competition among the eight franchises is expected to drive the cost of his signature far higher.

Each franchise has a spending cap of 600m rupees (£5.87m).

The current record paid for a single player was set in 2011, when India batsman Gautam Gambhir was signed for $2.4m (£1.45m).

Last year, Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell fetched the highest bid of $1mexternal-link from eventual winners Mumbai Indians.

This year, players are being bought in Indian rupees instead of US dollars for the first time.

"A lot of teams would be looking for Pietersen and we are one of them," added Sarkaria.

"The availability of English players for the whole duration of the IPL has always been a problem for most of the franchises. They have international commitments to fulfil.

"Pietersen's retirement changes the dynamics of auction."

Indian duo Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, Australia's Mitchell Johnson, South Africa's Jacques Kallis and England short-game specialists Alex Hales and Samit Patel are among another 30 players given the top reserve price.

Current and former England internationals Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jade Dernbach, Craig Kieswetter, Luke Wright, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Rikki Clarke and Simon Jones also go under the hammer in Bangalore from 04:00 GMT.

However, Eoin Morgan, who has played more matches in the tournament - 32 - than any other England-qualified player, withdrew from the auction on Monday in order to boost his chances of a Test recall.

In total, 514 players will be on sale for the seventh edition of the 20-over tournament, which features eight teams, mixes floodlit cricket with Bollywood glitz and high-profile corporate sponsorship and runs from 8 April to 30 May.

Any England players on central or incremental contracts who are selected for the home limited-overs series against Sri Lanka, starting on 20 May, must be back in the UK by 13 May.

No such restrictions will apply to Pietersen after he was released from his central contract following England's 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia.

The England & Wales Cricket Board said on Sunday that it was discarding Pietersen because it wanted an England team based on "trust" with all players "pulling in the same direction".

Pietersen, who signed a new contract on Monday to play county cricket for Surrey, has played 21 IPL matches for either the Royal Challengers Bangalore or Delhi Daredevils, but missed last season's competition through injury.

Delhi released their entire squad last month, allowing Pietersen to enter the auction.

"Kevin Pietersen is one of the world's best players, without any doubt, as far as Twenty20 is concerned and other forms of the game," Modi said last week.

"Now that he will be available for the whole time, I think it will be England's loss and the IPL's gain. I wouldn't be surprised if he went upwards of £2.5 to £3m."

Squads can include up to nine overseas players, but only four non-Indians can be picked for each match.

Rules limiting the number of players over the age of 22 in each squad places a further premium on the best young domestic talent.

Last year's tournament was overshadowed by a spot-fixing scandal, which led to former India fast bowler Sreesanth and his Rajasthan Royals team-mate Ankeet Chavan receiving life bans from cricket.

On Monday, a panel found Chennai Super Kings team principal Gurunath Meiyappan guilty of illegal betting on games during last year's event.

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