BANGALORE - Australian all-rounder Shane Watson received the highest bid of $1.4 million while banished England star Kevin Pietersen was sold to a new franchise at a glitzy Indian Premier League auction Saturday.

Watson lived up to his billing as one of the most sought-after players, being sold to Royal Challengers Bangalore for 95 million rupees ($1.4 million) at an auction attended by business big-wigs and former stars including ex-Australian skipper Ricky Ponting. Thirty-four-year-old Watson, who remains one of the top players in Twenty20cricket, was sold for more than four times his reserve price in the first round of marquee bidding in the southern Indian city of Bangalore. "Incredibly excited to join (RCB). Can't wait to meet up with my new team-mates in April," Watson tweeted.

Bangalore director Amrit Thomas said the addition of a utility player like Watson would make his team more competitive. "We were looking for Shane Watson to get the balance right in the team and finally we got him at the bargain price," Thomas was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

Pietersen was bought for $515,000 by Rising Pune Supergiants, one of the two new teams in this year's tournament that will be played from April 9 to May 29 across various Indian cities. The out-of-favour batsman last played for England in 2014 but proved his worth in the recent Big Bash League with the Melbourne Stars.

The Gujarat Lions, based in the western city of Rajkot, are the other new IPL entrant following the two-year suspension of the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings over a corruption scandal.

India's Yuvraj Singh was sold to Sunrisers Hyderabad for $1.03 million, a far cry from the $2.3 million that he commanded at last year's auction. South Africa's Chris Morris was picked for a surprise $1 million Saturday, 14 times his base price after the Mumbai Indians and Knight Riders went neck and neck, only for the Delhi Daredevils to grab him in the end.

Aaron Finch, Australia's injured T20 captain, and in-form New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill went unsold. South African speedster Dale Steyn, laid low by injuries, was the last man to be auctioned in the first round at $500,000. Many of India's uncapped players were sold much above their base prices, including left-arm spinner Pawan Negi who was snapped up for a whopping $1.2 million by Delhi.

The IPL, boasting an enviable brand value with Bollywood stars and big businesses as investors, has been dogged by controversies ever since its first edition in 2008. The 2013 IPL season saw police launch legal proceedings against several officials and players from Rajasthan and Chennai franchises over a betting and spot-fixing scandal. Both Chennai and Rajasthan are expected to return to the IPL after their bans end following the 2017 edition.