What followed was an intense scramble for his services, eventually making the English all-rounder the most expensive overseas signing at an IPL auction.
Stokes was sold to Rising Pune Supergiants for ₹14.5 crore here on Monday, with compatriot Tymal Mills not far behind, joining Royal Challengers Bangalore for ₹12 crore.
Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan Arman became the first Afghan players in the IPL, the latter earning a hefty ₹4 crore, while Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada both hit the 5-crore mark.
Karn Sharma emerged the most expensive Indian player of the tenth IPL auction, heading to Mumbai Indians for 3.2 crore.
There was ample reward for uncapped domestic talent: Tamil Nadu’s T. Natarajan sold for 30 times his base price of 10 lakh, Hyderabad’s Mohammed Siraj was acquired for 2.6 crore, Rajasthan’s Aniket Choudhary 2, and Karnataka’s K. Gowtham 2. It is fair to say none of the three players expected such numbers.
A hitherto quiet morning was suddenly enlivened when Stokes’ name came up for auction, in the second lot of names.
The Mumbai Indians and RCB tables had already raised their paddles, and Delhi Daredevils joined the bidding at 4.5 crore.
Mumbai carried on, seemingly prepared to exhaust its purse of 11.55 crore purse, before the price soared past that figure.
Sunrisers Hyderabad also jumped in before Rising Pune Supergiants, the last suitor, succeeded.
It did not matter to Sanjiv Goenka, owner of the Pune franchise, that it had nearly reached the bottom of its 17.5 crore purse, or that Stokes was a doubt to stay for the full duration of the tournament.
“Ben Stokes was our No.1, 2, and 3 preference,” he said.
Delhi, which entered the hall in the morning with a purse of 23 crore, bought big and early, securing the services of Angelo Mathews (2 crore), Corey Anderson (1 crore), Rabada (5 crore), and Pat Cummins (4.5).
RCB’s first player of the day was Pawan Negi (1 crore), the heaviest earner from last year’s auction.
In search of a replacement for left-arm quick Mitchell Starc, RCB pursued England’s Tymal Mills, who as a T20 specialist is not expected to be part of England’s ODI engagements. Mumbai opened the bidding at 50 lakh, showing no signs of backing down, before Punjab and Delhi joined the battle. RCB and KKR, though, took it beyond 10 crore, and the former eventually sealed the deal at 12 crore, 24 times the player’s base price.
The advent of the uncapped players in the afternoon brought some excitement. RCB snapped up 27-year-old Aniket Choudhary, whose price spiralled to 2 crore.
The left-arm seamer took four for 26 for India-A against Bangladesh recently, and is now bowling in the nets as the Indian Test team prepares for the Australia series.
Another left-armer, Natarajan, had attracted considerable interest in the lead-up to the auction following his exploits in the TNPL. He was chased by Punjab, RPS and SRH before the first of those sides secured his services for 3 crore.
KKR had had a quiet morning, save for the buying of Boult, but it found a replacement for Andre Russell in England’s Chris Woakes (4.2 crore). Mumbai’s owners rejoiced in the return of Mitchell Johnson at base price (2 crore), and were visibly surprised that there was no competition for Asela Gunaratne (30 lakh), the architect of Sri Lanka’s series-clinching victory over Australia on Sunday.
Punjab spent under 10 crore, well inside the 23.35 it was permitted to use. Gujarat Lions was even more careful with its funds, exhausting less than 4 crore. Its purchases included Chirag Suri, who becomes the first player from the UAE in the IPL.
A total of 66 players were sold (there were 77 slots available for teams to fill), with 91.15 crore (of the permitted 148.33) spent on the day.
Ishant Sharma (base price of 2 crore) was the most high-profile player to go unsold, and was joined by the likes of Irfan Pathan (50 lakh), Jonny Bairstow (1.5 crore), Imran Tahir (50 lakh), and Cheteshwar Pujara (50 lakh). Delight for some; disappointment for others.