Star players Saina Nehwal and Lee Chong Wei fetched whopping prices of USD 120,000 and USD 135,000 respectively, while unheralded Pradnya Gadre and K Maneesha received unexpected high bids in the players' auction of the USD one million Indian Badminton League here on Monday. (Saina happy, Kashyap will miss 'home')
The London Olympic bronze medallist Saina was bought by Hyderabad Hotshots for approximately Rs 71,27,796 after beating the bids of Lucknow Warriors and Pune Pistons in the much-awaited auction where over 150 players went under the hammer for 66 slots to fill six teams. Each team will have six Indians, four foreigners and one Indian junior player each. ('Success of IBL auction proves growing popularity of sport')
World number one Lee Chong Wei, however, bagged the costliest deal when he was bought by Mumbai Masters for approximately Rs 8,019,032. The Mumbai franchise beat the bids of Banga Beats and Krrish Delhi Smashers. (The full list of auctioned players)
Saina, one of the six icon players with base price of USD 50,000 (Rs 29,86,264), had stated that she would prefer to be either in Hyderabad or Lucknow team with a slight tilt towards her hometown. (Auction - as it happened)
Commonwealth Games bronze-medallist Parupalli Kashyap, also an icon player, was picked up by Banga Beats for USD 75,000 (Rs 4,455,622 approx), while rising star P V Sindhu was the big buy netted by Lucknow Warriors for USD 80,000 (Rs 4,752,664 approx).
In another interesting bidding war between Bangalore and Hyderabad, doubles player Pradnya Gadre fetched a whopping USD 46,000 after starting with a base price of USD 10,000, while little-known Maneesha was sold at USD 26,000, more than six times her base price of USD 4000.
Commonwealth Games women's doubles champions Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa went to Delhi Smashers and Pune Pistons respectively at USD 31,000 (Rs 18,51,520) and USD 25,000 (14,93,125) after their base price was reduced from USD 50,000 to USD 25,000 following a meeting of all the franchises at the last moment.
"Last night we had a closed bidding but then two players Jwala and Ashwini went unsold, so it was scrapped and it was decided that their base price be slashed to USD 25,000 and all icon players should be put under the hammer at the auction," said Ashish Chadha, CEO of Sporty Solutionz, the commercial partner of IBL.
"Since Jwala and Ashwini were signed as icon players keeping in mind the women's doubles, which was later replaced with another men's singles player, the IBL decided to safeguard their interest by paying them the deficit amount and give them a chance to fetch a bigger amount in the auction," said Chadha.
World number seven Vietnamese Tinh Minh Nyugen and world number four German Juliane Schenk were bought by Pune at USD 44,000 and USD 90,000 after starting at a base price of USD 25,000 and USD 50,000.
Among others, Akshay Dewalkar (USD 36,000), Sai Praneeth (USD 40,000), V Diju (USD 30,000), Pranav Jerry Chopra (USD 36,000), Arun Vishnu (USD 26,000) and K Srikanth (USD 34,000) also fetched interesting deals at the auction, which was postponed twice in the past.
The six franchise owners, who had a cap on their bid spending of USD 275,000, however, didn't show any interest in Thailand's Boonsak Ponsana (ranked fourth), Japan's Kenechi Tago (ranked fifth), Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto (ranked eighth) and Sony Dwi Kuncoro (ranked 10th) as they will not be available for the entire tournament, which will be held from August 14 to 31.
"I am disappointed because it took a lot for us to get this players on board but I can understand the franchises point of view. They also can't help as these players are not available for the entire event," Chadha said.
All the six franchises -- PVP Group (Hyderabad), BOP Group (Bangalore), Krrish Group (Delhi), Sahara (Lucknow), Burman family (Pune) and consortium of cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar, Telugu film star Akkineni Nagarjuna and former cricketer V Chamundeshwarnath (Mumbai) were satisfied with their buys.
"Kashyap was a good buy for us at that price. We wanted Gadre and we had aggressively bid for her but then we had to let her go. But we got Aparna Balan for USD 12,000, which is good. Overall I am happy," said Vimal Kumar, coach of Banga Beats.
Delhi smashers coach Rashid Sidek said: "We have quite a balanced team, I wanted Lee Chong Wei as I am his coach and he is the world number one. But we got Jwala. We have to get Jwala train harder to regain fitness. She and Diju can help us win the mixed doubles."
Rajeev Kamineni, executive director Rajeev Kamineni of PVP group, was also happy to get Saina and former world and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat in his Hyderabad team.
"I'm happy to have two players, Saina and Taufik, who have captured the imagination of Indian badminton. We had the best possible combination," he said.
Interestingly, Hyderabad had exhausted their purse with one player still left to buy so they released Rohit Yadav (USD 5000) and settled for Kanthi Visalakshi P and Shubhankar Dey for USD 3000 each.
Pune Pistons coach Nikhil Kanetkar said: "We had to have a balance team. When we had Ashwini, we had to get Joachim Fischer Nielsen. We had to fight hard for Juliane and we are happy to get her."
The auction also had a dash of glitz and glamour with two-time Grand Slam champion Sania Mirza, Olympic bronze medallist Gagan Narang and actor Nagarjuna present at the over six-hour long auction, which was conducted by London-based auctioneer Bob Hayton.
The Player's auction also had its share of chaos and confusion as some of the details of the players screened during the auction were wrong. The BAI and BWF ranking of some of the players were mixed up, while some players were put in women's doubles section even as there is no such category in the tweaked IBL format.
Also, the print out of the player's list that was distributed to the reporters, had Lee Chong Wei's nationality given as Indian.
Meanwhile, Lucknow Warriors owners Sahara India Pariwar said that they would change the name of their team to Awadh Warriors.
"We will change the name of the team to Awadh Warriors but we will make a formal announcement later on," an official of Sahara India Pariwar said.