Big hitter Morris smashes IPL auction record with $2.25 million fee

Chennai (India) (AFP) –


South Africa all-rounder Chris Morris became the most expensive player bought for the Indian Premier League on Thursday, when Rajasthan Royals paid $2.25 million for him.

Taking centre stage in a high-spending auction for this year's tournament, the fee smashed the record $2.2 million paid for Yuvraj Singh by Delhi in 2015.

Australian bowler Pat Cummins had previously been the most expensive foreign player, costing Kolkata Knight Riders $2.17m in 2019.

"The most expensive player in IPL history is now a Royal," Rajasthan said as it trumpeted the signing of Morris, who will join a team including England stars Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes.

"It was quite a high price, but at the same time, the role in the team and the demand for the role plays a large part," Royals' director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara said.

The 33-year-old Morris is a fast bowler and hard-hitting lower order batsman. He has played for Rajasthan previously, in 2015.

- Moeen fee triples -

Morris attracted bids this time from top teams including current champions Mumbai Indians, as his price rocketed from a start of $100,000.

He has played 42 one-day internationals and 23 Twenty20 matches for South Africa, and has claimed 80 wickets in 70 matches in the world's richest Twenty20 tournament.

He played for Delhi in 2018 and 2019 and then for Royal Challengers Bangalore last year.

In a sign that IPL clubs are eager to invest in top international stars despite the coronavirus pandemic, Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell went to Royal Challengers Bangalore for $1.95m after another intense auction.

The 32-year-old Maxwell was released by Punjab Kings after just one season. Punjab had paid $1.5 million for him in 2020.

Punjab snapped up Australian quick Jhye Richardson for $1.9 million. The 24-year-old has played just two Tests and nine T20 matches.

Former Australia captain Steve Smith went to Delhi Capitals for $300,000 after being released by Rajasthan Royals.

Three-time IPL champions Chennai, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, got England spin bowler Moeen Ali for $950,000 -- more than three times the fee paid when he was last at auction in 2018.

Moeen, 33, returned to England this week after playing a key role in the second Test defeat by India in Chennai.

Moeen's return was shrouded in controversy after it was indicated that he had chosen to leave the England camp.

England coach Chris Silverwood apologised on Wednesday and clarified that it had been planned for Moeen to leave as part of the team rotation policy, but England had asked if he would stay on.

Off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham was the costliest Indian buy after he went to Chennai for $1.25m.

Officially, each of the eight teams is allowed to spend nearly $12 million in salaries for the 10-week tournament. Many have a high number of retained players who are never on the auction list.

India captain Virat Kohli is believed to have the biggest IPL salary, earning some $2.7 million a year at Bangalore in 2018. He has never been part of the auction.

Meanwhile Chinese phone maker Vivo returned as the IPL's lead sponsor after the deal was suspended last year following a deadly border clash between India and China.

In 2017, Vivo signed a five-year contract worth more than $330 million to sponsor the IPL, which was held behind closed doors in the United Arab Emirates last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year's season is expected to start in April.