WHEN bidders turned up at the first Indian Premier League cricket player auction in Mumbai last month, it was an antiques auctioneer from England they found on the rostrum.
Richard Madley of Dreweatts, spent nine hours dispersing the cream of world cricket. He dubbed it his most extraordinary sale in 30 years.
He was called on to take up the gavel through his contacts with Sky TV and because he had both a detailed knowledge of cricket and experience selling in dollars after ten years in the business in New York. He had also conducted a cricket auction as far back as 1978.
Nonetheless, his experience at the $41m sale in Mumbai was a first.
Not only was he auctioning off people - 77 players in all - but he had to run the sale under an entirely new set of rules.
"They built the saleroom especially for the auction and had to include eight separate platforms, one for each franchise bidding for players."
More extraordinarily, each franchise bidder was surrounded by a team of accountants, coaches and even specialists who had studied the psychology of bidding.
"We had to have a tactical break after every six lots for each franchise to review their position, work out how much money they had spent, how the profile of their teams looked and how to develop their bidding strategy."
With each franchise limited to a $5m budget, this also meant working out how much rival franchises had spent so that they knew how much to bid them up on other players.
"It was a bit like a mix between a high-ticket art sale and a benefit fundraiser," Mr Madley told ATG. "Having bought the last lot, a representative from the Bangalore franchise invited me to their opening match."
A second player auction is planned soon, with expectation that a number of English players may make the move to join the Twenty20 tournament in April.
Despite approaches from agents, franchisees are not allowed to broker deals to acquire players - they may only do so via the auction process.
Meanwhile his stint on the rostrum has clearly raised Mr Madley's celebrity status as well.
"I have just had invitations to Bermuda, Lagos and Connecticut to conduct auctions and give talks - have gavel, will travel," he told ATG.
It's further than he ever thought the game would take him: "I'm the oldest player by about 34 years in the bottom league of the worst cricketing village in Wiltshire… and I'm usually somewhere between nine and 11 in the batting order."
By Ivan Macquisten