CHENNAI: The status of the Indian economy has been under the scanner in the last few months with the falling GDP being the talk of the town. The situation notwithstanding, teams went all out with their moolah for the shuttlers at the Premier Badminton League (PBL) 3 auctions that were held here on Monday.
India’s top guns PV Sindhu (Rs 48.75 lakh, Chennai Smashers), Saina Nehwal (Rs 41.25 lakh, Awadhe Warriors) and Kidambi Srikanth (Rs 56.1 lakh, Awadhe Warriors) were retained by their respective teams, while there were a few surprises.
One of the two new teams, Ahmedabad Smash Masters, began the auction by grabbing the world’s number one women’s singles player Tai Tzu Ying for Rs 52 lakh, who will be making a debut in the tournament. The Smash Masters also netted India’s fast-improving men’s singles player HS Prannoy, making him this auctions’ most expensive player (Rs 62 lakh).
Express contacted the Smash Masters’ owner Ashish Shah to learn if their recruitment targets had been achieved.
“From the start we knew that we wanted Prannoy. That strategy was to get him. Same with Ying,” Shah said.
“He (Prannoy) is a killer shuttler. Last season he played tremendously. We knew that getting players like PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth will be difficult. So, we concentrated only on players like Prannoy,” he added.
The Pullela Gopichand Academy trainee has had a really productive year, having lifted the US Grand Prix Gold title. Also in last season’s PBL, he claimed all of his seven matches in the tournament while playing for the Bengaluru Blasters.
Investing in sports leagues is one of the most sought-after things right now. Has the supposed downturn in the economy affected this notion in any way?
“We are doing this for the love of the game. We want to promote sports and as far as the question of a fruitful investment is, we think it is exactly that.
“We are a public limited company and have invested in other sports too. We have also seen sports such as kabaddi grow in leaps and bounds when introduced in an IPL-esque format. So, we know what we are doing,” Shah said.
Prannoy was visibly elated after becoming the most expensive player in the auction. “I did not expect this price at all. Last time I got around Rs 21 lakh. I was expecting something around Rs 35 lakh. I think I got very lucky.”Among the foreign shuttlers, Tian Houwei of China was the biggest gainer, going to Delhi Acers for Rs 58 lakh.
Men’s singles: HS Prannoy (D62 lakh), Tian Houwei (D58 lakh, China), Kidambi Srikanth (D56.10 lakh), Lee Hyun-il (D53 lakh, South Korea), Tzu Wei Wang (D52 lakh, Chinese Taipei), Viktor Axelsen (D50 lakh, Denmark), Son Wan Ho (D50 lakh, South Korea).
Women’s singles: Tai Tzu Ying (D52 lakh, Chinese Taipei), Carolina Marin (D50 lakh, Spain), Sung Ji Hyun (D50 lakh, South Korea), PV Sindhu (D48.75 lakh, Chennai Smashers), Saina Nehwal (D41.25 lakh).