The Indian Premier League held its annual player auction on Thursday, with two players setting new salary records for the professional Twenty20 cricket league.

IPL Auction Chris Morris
Chris Morris became the highest-paid player in league history when the Rajasthan Royals paid $2.24 million for the South African in the 2021 IPL auction. (Image: Getty)

Chris Morris set the record for the highest salary in IPL history, while Krishnappa Gowtham became the highest-paid uncapped Indian player ever.

Rajasthan Pays Big Money for All-Rounder

The Rajasthan Royals paid INR 16.25 crore ($2.24 million) for Morris, a South African all-rounder. That beat the $2.2 million Yuvraj Singh earned in 2015, and the foreign player record of $2.17 million that the Kolkata Knight Riders paid to Australian bowler Pat Cummins in 2019.

“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,” Rajasthan director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara said, via Al Jazeera.

Morris previously played for the Delhi Capitals in 2018 and 2019, then for Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2020. He has mostly excelled as a bowler, taking 80 wickets in 70 matches, though he can also hit a bit at the bottom of the order. He’s suited up for South Africa 42 times in One Day International matches, and 23 more times in Twenty20 play.

Gowtham Sweats Out IPL Auction Bidding War

Meanwhile, the Chennai Super Kings paid INR 9.25 crore ($1.27 million) for Gowtham, an offspin-bowling all-rounder who last played for the Punjab Kings. The bidding began at just 20 lakh ($27,500), with Kolkata and the Sunrisers Hyderabad battling for his services. The Super Kings only joined the bidding late, swooping in to win Gowtham.

“It was nerve-wracking, I was very anxious, watching on TV,” Howtham told ESPNcricinfo. “Obviously this isn’t the first time I’ve been part of the auction, but every time your name comes up, the kind of butterflies in your tummy is unimaginable.”

The 32-year-old remains one of the more prominent domestic players never to suit up for the Indian national team, regularly playing for the country’s A side – essentially, the second-highest level of international play.

The IPL auction is one of the main ways that teams acquire players, and it operates similar to the annual drafts in American sports leagues. Players who aren’t currently under contract sign up for the auction and set their opening price. Teams must stay under a salary cap of INR 85 crore ($11.7 million), and can only play a maximum of four foreign players in their 11-player lineup in any individual match.

But the raw numbers understate the value of these contracts to players. Since the league runs for only two months out of the year, many also play in other competitions as well. When weekly IPL salaries are pro-rated to an entire year, they are among the highest in the sports world. In 2015, Sporting Intelligence and ESPN: The Magazine found that IPL players averaged a pro-rated salary of $4.33 million a year.

Paddy Power rates Mumbai as the +350 favorite to win the IPL in 2021, ahead of Delhi (+450), Bangalore (+500), and Hyderabad (+500).