For its second season, the Mumbai-based Billiards Premier League has introduced an auction to decide the line-up for each of the eight participating franchises.
This is the first time in cue sports that an event has seen the involvement of an auction, that granted each team a purse of Rs 75,000 to purchase six players.
Dhruv Sitwala, who won his first international title — the Asian Billiards Championship — in April was the most expensive player, going under the hammer for Rs 38,500 at the auction last week.
The introduction of the concept to a game that has broadly been an individual sport has provided an incentive for players, yet at the same time, Sitwala claims, has provided a degree of pressure.
“It’s always a welcome thing to be prized for your talent. But since we’ve never really experienced something like this before, there is a little tension to perform well,” he said.
As skipper of the ‘Ottomans’ team, Sitwala, further, asserted that the team captains have an additional responsibility to keep their respective teammates in the “correct frame of mind”.
“Since there’s pressure on us to perform because of the money, there will obviously be pressure on the other players too. So we have to keep ourselves calm, and the onus is on us to make sure we filter out the anxiety for the other players as well,” he added.
Nonetheless, the inclusion of an auction system is seen as a first step towards increasing the popularity of the sport. For the inaugural edition last year, teams were selected based on a random draw. “Since this was to be a franchise-based tournament, it seemed fit to have an auction this time around. Once the money comes in, the event becomes more competitive since there is an incentive to work hard so you get a higher price later on,” says Raajeev Sharma, owner of the Rockets franchise. “At the same time, this is still in an experimental phase which is why it’s only Mumbai- based. If it becomes a hit, we may achieve a long-term goal of making this a national event,” he said.