“Throw all your money now!”
The much-anticipated Premier Badminton League (PBL) auction began with legendary auctioneer Bob Hayton’s patented punchline. We soon got down to business, with national coach and BPL governing council member Pullela Gopichand starting the proceedings at a luxurious ballroom of a Hyderabad hotel.
The auction and the tournament have generated a lot of hype, and badminton continues to garner all the love in India. With a handful of new faces and the introduction of two new teams, PBL aims to deliver a power-packed season, which means more players, viewers, venues, revenues and a bigger thrust towards India becoming a multi-sport culture.
Here are a few takeaways from the auction:
Prannoy hogs the spotlight
There is a reason why HS Prannoy is known as a ‘giant-killer’. After an intense bidding war between his former team Mumbai Rockets and the Ahmedabad Smash Masters, the World No 15 was purchased by the latter for Rs 62 lakh, a 150 percent hike compared to last year’s bid of Rs 25 lakh. Having lost out on Prannoy, the Rockets later got Sameer Verma for Rs 52 lakh.
Prannoy has shown glimpses of his deadly attacking prowess this year, beating higher-ranked opponents such as Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long in the Indonesia Open. He further went on to clinch the US Open Grand Prix Gold title in July. And one can’t just forget Prannoy’s explosive unbeaten run with Mumbai Rockets last season, when he won seven out of seven matches, the only player with a 100 percent win record.
Rules too many?
Lengthy discussions over players’ base prices wasn’t the only thing that kept team owners scratching their heads on Monday. New rules for the upcoming season had to be explained to the team officials, who took quite a while to understand these. While this took place, there was a slight delay in the auction process. Representatives from Ahmedabad Smash Masters, Chennai Smashers and Mumbai Rockets were puzzled over the number of players a franchise is allowed to retain for the tournament. “Each retained player gets a 25 percent hike in his/her salary from last year, while players who are bought using the ‘Right-To-Match’ card get a 10 percent increase from last year’s selling price”. Looks simple? This was one of the rules which took up most of the time. Questions were also raised regarding the “icon players”, which further prolonged the process.
Adcocks in demand
Briton shuttlers Chris and Gabrielle Adcock stole the limelight on Monday as the husband-wife pair was bought by the Chennai Smashers for Rs 54 lakh and Rs 48 lakh respectively. The move took some of the teams by surprise, but looking at the format of the league, such a deal was on the cards. The Adcocks have had a good outing in 2017 so far, winning the European Championships in Kolding and claiming their maiden bronze medal at the recently-concluded World Badminton Championships in Glasgow. Not to forget, the mixed doubles duo also had an incredible trip in the previous season, finishing unbeaten with title winners Chennai Smashers.
Ahead of the auction, a lot was spoken about the participation of Chinese players in PBL’s third season. But it were the Koreans who fetched the most money. A total of Rs 4.11 crore was approximately splurged on nine Korean shuttlers. What’s more, seven out of the nine were doubles players — World No 2 Son Wan Ho and World No 3 Sung Ji Hyun are the only singles players from the lot.
The need for doubles players in the fast-paced league has forced franchises to rope in a few quality doubles specialists. The Koreans have ruffled a few feathers in team events. Remember how the doubles success handed Korea a dramatic 3-2 victory over China in the final of 2017 Sudirman Cup?
Newcomers make an impact
The addition of two new teams made a lot of fans curious about how the franchises would shape up. Ahmedabad Smash Masters and North Eastern Warriors went all in, spending top money for compete with the rest of the lot. While Smash Masters roped in the services of World No 1 Tai Tzu Ying (Rs 52 lakh), Prannoy, Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Rs 35 lakh), Warriors could not have been happier getting Wang Tzu Wei (Rs 52 lakh), Shin Baek Cheol (Rs 55 lakh) and Ajay Jayaram (Rs 44 lakh).
— PBL India (@PBLIndiaLive) October 10, 2017