Roughly this time last year,Ramandeep Singh watched in envy as his teammates were picked up by the Hockey India League franchisees for sums the sport hadnt seen before. Gurjinder Singh,Affan Yousuf,Bharat Chikkara and a few others too must have cursed their luck.
How fortunes change,though! Discarded from the national set-up a year ago after aligning with the break-away World Series Hockey (WSH),these players were the biggest buys among the Indian players at the HIL player auctions in New Delhi on Friday.
Twenty-year-old Ramandeep,in fact,was the biggest draw at the auction,being bought for $81,000 by Uttar Pradesh Wizards,$10,000 more than New Zealands Ryan Archibald,who commanded $71,000. Ramandeeps teammate at Pune Strykers of the WSH,Nikkin Thimmaiah is not too far behind. He was the third biggest buy of the day,being bought by the Wizards for $59,000. And to round off an impressive Indian presence in the top five costliest bids is another WSH player,Gurjinder Singh. The 19-year-old,who was the player of the tournament in the inaugural WSH,was picked up by Mumbai Magicians for $56,000.
It is hardly surprising,however,that these talented young players have commanded such prices. While majority of Indian players gave WSH a miss,the cream of young talent from across the country had aligned with the Indian Hockey Federation and Nimbus venture. However,with the tournament dying a slow death,these players are back in the Hockey India fold.
Keeping an eye on next months junior World Cup,the junior players were drafted into the senior squad and their performances soared. Ramandeep was labeled as the find of Asia Cup whereas another youngster,Affan Yousuf who was adjudged the best player of this years senior nationals,too has impressed all. He was purchased for $35,000 by Punjab Warriors.
Supply and demand
Delhi Waveriders advisor Ajitpal Singh said the fact that very few Indian players were up for grabs this year also helped their cause. Compared to last year,there were fewer Indians this time. And most of the top players have already been picked up. So naturally,the demand for these youngsters was high. Moreover,the salary cap was increased as well,giving the teams an option to spend more money on the player of their choice Ajitpal said.
It looked an auction exclusively created for those returning after a year in oblivion following their alliance with WSH. For,it was not just the young players,who have benefitted. Veterans such as Prabhjot Singh,Chikkara and VS Vinaya too have been picked up by the clubs,who have been keen to strengthen their squads. Many players from the other league have returned. So the pool of players has become big. And theres no doubt about the quality of these players. They will add value to the league, he added.
The World Cup-winning former India captain said the big bucks will boost the confidence of young Indian players ahead of the junior World Cup,which begins on December 6. Theyll feel rewarded. Its a good thing. This will keep our players happy and motivated. It should inspire them to do well at the World Cup, he said.
Top 10 Indian earners
Ramandeep Singh: $81,000 (UP Wizards)
Nikkin Thimmaiah: $59,000 (UP Wizards)
Gurjinder Singh: $56,000 (Mumbai Magicians)
Prabhjot Singh: $46,000 (Mumbai Magicians)
VS Vinaya: $40,000 (Mumbai Magicians)
Ravi Pal: $40,000 (Mumbai Magicians)
Affan Yousuf: $35,000 (Punjab Warriors)
Bharat Chikkara: $32,000 (Mumbai Magicians)
Vikas Pillay: $30,000 (Mumbai Magicians)
Prabodh Tirkey: $25,000 (Kalinga Lancers)