Aussie cricketer Ash Gardner has 558,000 reasons to smile after attracting the second-highest bid at the inaugural Women's Premier League (WPL) auction on Monday night. The No.1-ranked all-rounder in women's T20Is, Gardner was bought by the Adani Group-owned Gujarat Giants for the staggering sum of $558,000.
The Aussie star was the subject of a fierce three-team bidding war, but eventually went to the last of the three franchises to express their interest in the 25-year-old. Gardner watched the auction live on her phone, alongside Australia teammates Megan Schutt and Kim Garth, from the sidelines of her team's afternoon training session at St George's Park in Gqeberha ahead of their T20 World Cup clash against Bangladesh on Tuesday.
'PATHETIC': Ian Healy lashes India move ahead of second Test
'AWFUL LOOK': Matt Renshaw under fire over 'embarrassing' photo
“I’m excited to have been selected by the Giants in the inaugural Women’s IPL and look forward to joining the team next month,” Gardner said. “For now my focus is on Australia at the Women’s T20 World Cup and our next game.”
Australia head coach Shelley Nietschke said after the team's practice session: "Ashleigh's such a great all-rounder. She delivers in three skills. She's been really important for us over the last 12 months to two years, and even beyond that.
"But I think what we're finding in recent times is she's really coming into her game and maturing as a cricketer. So she plays a key role for us.
"It was fantastic to see her perform with the ball and her career-best figures against New Zealand. I'm looking forward to seeing what the tournament (WPL) brings for her."
Gardner recorded career-best figures in T20Is (5-12) in Australia's opening fixture at the T20 World Cup against New Zealand. She was recently named the WBBL player of the year at the Australian Cricket Awards.
The Aussie was the fifth player from the seven-member 'Set 1' to go under the hammer. Indian star Smriti Mandhana drew the highest bid of the day at $593,000, while Harmanpreet Kaur and Sophie Devine of New Zealand also cashed in. England player Natalie Sciver-Brunt was snapped up at the same price as Gardner by Mumbai.
Mumbai also bought Australian player Heather Graham, who took a hat-trick in Mumbai two months ago, for $52,000. Ellyse Perry was the second Australian to be bought, with Royal Challengers Bangalore shelling out $297,000 on the star all-rounder. Beth Mooney later got $350,000 from Gujarat to become the second-most expensive Australian buy.
No.1-ranked T20I batter Tahlia McGrath ($245,000/UP), Australia captain Meg Lanning ($192,000/Delhi Capitals), vice-captain Alyssa Healy ($122,000/UP), and all-rounder Annabel Sutherland ($122,000/Gujarat) also scored big.
Cricket world reacts to 'insanity' at women's IPL auction
Fast bowler Megan Schutt and wrist-spinner Alana King were the two first two Australian players to go unsold. However Bangalore later picked up Schutt at her base price of $70,000.
Bangalore also got fellow Aussie Erin Burns, who isn't part of Australia's T20 World Cup squad, for $52,000. Spinner Jess Jonassen was snapped up by Delhi for $87,000 at the second time of asking, however King found no takers despite going under the hammer twice.
Leg-spinner Georgia Wareham went to Gujarat for $131,000 after they outbid Bangalore, while the Harris sisters - Grace ($131,000) and Laura ($78,300) - were bought by UP and Delhi respectively.
A total of 87 players were bought at the auction, 30 of those being overseas recruits. Australia had the highest representation from a single nation.
The new tournament, which mirrors the wildly successful men's IPL, will take place from March 4-26 for its inaugural edition. Fans and commentators flocked to social media in awe of the 'game-changing' concept on Monday night.
Absolute insanity overnight in the #WPLAuction. Revolutionary for women’s sport. Ash Gardner the highest paid Aussie at 3.2 crore, or $558k in dollarydoos. I don’t think a lot of Aussies realise how huge the WPL (or indeed the WWC) is gonna be.
— Daany Saeed (@daanysaeed) February 13, 2023
It’s not that long ago really that few would have even imagined the sums being outlaid for our women cricketers. Hundreds of thousands of dollars for some, more than half a million for Ash Gardner. The #WPLAuction is a game changer.
— Nina Stevens (@NinaBStevens) February 13, 2023
🏏⭐️ Ash Gardner just went for $558,000 AUD in the Women’s IPL auction. A huge result and a game changer for women’s sport. Congratulations.
— Adam Crosthwaite (@AJCrosthwaite) February 13, 2023
The scenes from the #WPLAuction are making my heart sing. What a moment for cricket... not only women’s cricket - all cricket. If you invest in women, you invest in the future of young girls & that can only grow the game.
— Neroli Meadows (@Neroli_Meadows) February 13, 2023
— Laura Jolly (@JollyLauz18) February 13, 2023
Australian players will win Title for you. That’s the tweet. Gujarat Giants picks One of the best all-rounder Ash Gardner. She is beast in power hitting and best off spinner.👏🏻#WPLAuction
— Avinash Aryan (@AvinashArya09) February 13, 2023
— Freo ⚓ Pope (@FreoPope) February 13, 2023
— Ash (@Tenash921) February 13, 2023
That is what the Gugurat Giants have just paid to acquire the services of AUS all-rounder Ash Gardner at the inaugural Women’s Premier League auction
Safe to say women’s cricket has changed forever … and good luck to them 👏
— Glenn Mitchell (@MitchellGlenn) February 13, 2023
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.