Bengaluru: Prolific left-hand batsman Pavan Deshpande and all-rounder Aniruddha Joshi were the stars of the Player Auction of the Karnataka Premier League (KPL 2019), cornering Rs 7.3 lakh and Rs 7.1 lakh respectively during an action-packed bidding war in Bengaluru on Saturday (July 27).

The bigger surprise, however, was Jonathan Rongsen, a 32-year-old top-order batsman, who became the bone of contention between Mysuru Warriors, Bijapur Bulls and Bengaluru Blasters. He was eventually swooped up by the Blasters camp, who doled out Rs 6 lakh for his recent good run in Nagaland.

Interestingly, Rongsen emerged from Pool B to become one of the more prominent purchases. It is even more impressive as the minimum bid for his ilk was Rs 20,000. Pool B players started with Rs 20,000. The teams had a cap of Rs 30 lakh to configure their combination of 18 players.

Not too surprisingly, six of Karnataka’s top players didn’t evince any interest in the initial Pool A round due to their domestic and international commitments. The other 18 who remained after the retention process, however, triggered intense bidding.

Fascinatingly, when the same players were put on the table again, the same teams were ready to liberally splash their purse. Prasiddh Krishna went to Ballari Tuskers for Rs 5.80 lakh while Manish Pandey and R Samarth were picked up by Belagavi Panthers for a mere Rs 2 lakh and Rs 2.10 lakh respectively. Karun Nair, Shreyas Gopal and Ronit More remained unsold by the end of the auction too.

“If a purchased player gets picked to play Duleep Trophy, franchisees have the option of replacing him with their choice from the Auction list,” assistant secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) Santosh Menon said. “They will be compensated on a pro rata basis though.”

“Players who are playing for other states after taking a NOC are still allowed to play in the KPL because they have represented Karnataka in the past. We have always had a provision for that. That’s why KB Pawan and Amit Verma were in the Auction pool," Menon added.

Another state stalwart, Robin Uthappa, who had requested to be left out of the Auction due to his commitments with Kerala, was also not part of auction.

Even though K Gowtham was likely to miss a number of KPL games, he earned the distinction of being the only marquee player to be attract a fair bit of attention, with the Tuskers outbidding the Blasters for Rs 1.90 lakh.

With the participation of big names in limbo, teams went after Deshpande and Joshi with vigour. Deshpande, who was picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for the 2018 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), has been one of the more consistent performers for Karnataka since making his debut during the 2017-18 season.

As soon as Deshpande’s name came up, Warriors opened the bid at Rs 3 lakh. Lions continued to counter them until the Warriors pulled out at Rs 7.30 lakh.

The same two franchises were involved in a tussle for Joshi, but this time the Warriors stood their ground and came away with the 31-year-old all-rounder for Rs 7.10 lakh after the Lions had run out of purse for another Pool A bid.

Joshi, who has featured in 12 List A games, too was part of RCB’s 2018 IPL campaign.

While Pool A garnered a lot of attention, Pool B action was the one that had everyone on the edge of their seats as the bidding strategy for the 202-player pool reflected the homework the franchises had done in the off-season.

Abrar Kazi’s pick-up by the Tuskers for Rs 4.60 lakh, Shoaib Manager’s purchase by the Warriors for Rs 4.65 lakh and Naga Bharath’s winning bid of Rs 3.55 lakh by the Blasters raised some eyebrows. But none of the Pool B bids drew as many shocked glances as the battle for Rongsen.

Rongsen has showcased his skill in the KPL over the last few years, but his stocks seem to have risen since his successful run for Nagaland in last season's Ranji Trophy.

The KSCA’s attempt at giving the league a facelift by introducing the Right to Match option too was a hit among teams, most evident when intense bidding wars ended with Amit Verma and the hard-hitting Mohammad Taha being bought back by the Warriors for Rs 5.20 lakh and the Lions for Rs 5.70 lakh, respectively.

KPL 2019 Twenty20 tournament will be played in Bengaluru, Hubballi and Mysuru from August 16 to September 1. Seven teams are in the fray.