Pietersen bids 'could top $3million'
Kevin Pietersen may be able to dwarf his annual England earnings, for less than two months' work, if all goes as expected at the Indian Premier League auction.
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Pietersen is free for the first time to feature in a full IPL campaign, following his axing as a contracted England player and, therefore, at the age of 33, the apparent end of his international career.
The timing of this year's auction is uncomfortable for its organisers, just two days after the publication of the Mudgal report to the Supreme Court into the spot-fixing crisis which engulfed the tournament last year.
The spending spree is set to go ahead nonetheless and the deal secured by Pietersen, who will pocket the cash which is bid for him, will be a headline-grabber worldwide.
The South Africa-born batsman will be available for million-dollar plus bids in the set-piece event in Bangalore on Wednesday - and possibly Thursday too if the big-bucks business overruns - as one of the prized assets available in the elite 'marquee player' category.
England's all-time record run-scorer is one of a handful of household names, among the 512 cricketers to be sold, for seven-and-a-half weeks in April and May this year, to the highest bidders, guaranteed the relatively meagre base price of almost £200,000.
That, however, is merely a starting point for franchises intent on signing up one of the competition's hottest properties.
Alongside Pietersen, among the 31 names commanding a top-bracket reserve price are other superstar internationals such as India's Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, Australia's Mitchell Johnson, South Africa's all-time great Jacques Kallis and England short-format specialists Alex Hales and Samit Patel.
Estimates as to how high the prices may go vary wildly, but can be safely put above the earnings Pietersen could have anticipated had he enjoyed a successful 12 months as an England and Wales Cricket Board centrally-contracted player under the terms re-negotiated last September.
With match fees and bonuses taken into account, a salary figure close to £1million might have been his for a year in international cricket.
At the IPL 12 months ago, subsequent champions Mumbai Indians paid US$1million for Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell - and two years earlier, the record figure of $2.4million was set by Kolkata Knight Riders when they secured the services of India batsman Gautam Gambhir.
Several of the eight franchise owners have already spoken this time round of the possibility of a new all-time high bid for a top player, and former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi has made it clear he thinks Pietersen may be the one to smash the record.
"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," he told BBC.
"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 £3million."
Many other big names have already been retained by their existing franchises, whereas Pietersen is up for grabs after his team Delhi Daredevils opted to release their entire squad.
Pietersen, who previously also played for Royal Challengers Bangalore, was unable to feature at all for Delhi last year because of a knee injury which kept him out of all cricket for three months.
Notable England-qualified players joining him in this year's auction - as well as Nottinghamshire pair Hales and Patel - are Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Craig Kieswetter, Luke Wright and Jade Dernbach.
Pietersen has already made the first important decision of his post-England career by signing a summer contract to stay on at Surrey, with whom he can be expected to feature regularly in the rebranded English Twenty20 tournament and perhaps the County Championship too.
As for the IPL, the hope will doubtless be that glitz and glamour drowns out the findings of retired judge Mukul Mukdal's report which concluded Chennai Super Kings principal Gurunath Meiyappan - son-in-law of Indian board president and International Cricket Council chairman elect N Srinivasan - took part in illegal betting on matches last year.