P V Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and world champion Carolina Marin were the expected top buys at the Premier Badminton League season four auction, fetching the maximum price of Rs 80 lakh here Monday. The unexpected one was rising doubles star Satwiksairaj Rankireddy who was the highest paid non-Icon Indian player with Rs 52 lakh. With all players returning to the auction pool for the first time since 2015 and no Right to Match (RTM) card at teams’ disposal, the exercise gained more significance with franchisees looking to get the combination right besides their ideal Icon player.
Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto was the highest paid non-Icon Player with Delhi Dashers splurging Rs 70 lakh for his services. The Delhi outfit won a tense battle with two other teams to acquire the World No 11, paying Rs 40 lakh above his base price.
Icon players Marin and Sindhu were the obvious choice for most teams. At least four teams raised the prize purse to Rs 80 lakh, the maximum limit a team can bid for a player, before the players got assigned to the teams by a draw of lots. The Spaniard, who played a major role in helping Hyderabad Hunters win the title last year, would now shift base to Pune. The new outfit were clearly gunning for the multiple time world champion Marin and were understandably delighted when the announcer pulled out a chit of their name in a draw of lot.
Among the non-Icon Indians, Rankireddy was the top draw as Ahmedabad Smash Masters outbid the Hyderabad Hunters to secure the youngster for Rs 52 lakh, a massive jump from his base price of Rs 15 lakh. The fourth season of the PBL will begin in Mumbai on December 22 while the final will be held in Bengaluru on January 13, 2019.
A ninth team, Pune7 Aces, has been added this year and is co-owned by actor Taapsee Pannu. Marin will be playing for her team. Sindhu, who was playing for Chennai Smashers for the last two seasons, will be playing for her home team Hyderabad while two times CWG gold winner Saina will be seen plying her trade for the North-Eastern Warriors.
“I always had a special admiration for the north-east and with this alliance I wish to promote badminton in this region, so that we have more people inspired to take up the sport,” said the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist.
Among the other Icon Players, former world champion Viktor Axelsen will represent Ahmedabad Smash Masters, Kidambi Srikanth would play for Bengaluru Raptors, HS Prannoy will turn up for Delhi Dashers.
Chennai Smashers, who will have Korean Sung ji Hyun as their Icon player, managed to retain the services of English mixed doubles combination of Chris and Gabby Adcock, paying them Rs 54 lakh and Rs 36 lakh respectively.
Korea’s mixed doubles specialist Eom Hye Won also got a Rs 30 lakh jump from her base price of Rs 7 lakh as the Hyderabad Hunters secured her to build a strong doubles unit. But it was Delhi Dashers who broke the bank to get Sugiarto in the squad after they had already paid Rs 80 lakh for Prannoy. However, their strategy clearly was to invest in men’s singles and they made the most of it.
Two teams — Awadhe Warriors and Mumbai Rockets — exhausted their entire purse of Rs 2.6 crore while Pune 7 Aces despite putting up a challenging line up managed to save Rs 14 lakh and North Eastern Warriors Rs 8 lakh.
Atul Pande, managing director of SportzLive whch organises PBL, said the budget of the fourth season is around Rs 60 crore out of which Rs 6 crore is the prize money. He said the promoters and teams should be able to break even in the new two-three years.
“We are getting there. Even IPL teams took a long time before they broke even, let alone making a profit,” Pande told PTI.