NEW DELHI: Two numbers, more than most, reflects how much the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) has come on as a product. In the inaugural edition of the competition, the eight teams combined spent Rs 4.70 crores at the auctions.
Each franchise had a salary cap of Rs 60 lakh. The salary cap per team in the fifth season? Rs 4 crores. More than a six-fold increase in less than three years. The monies that the 12 teams spent on Monday alone? Rs 27.27 crores — an increase of more than 550%. Even the most profitable start-ups take time to produce numbers like that.
Even if those figures are a bit skewed because of four additional sides, it’s obvious they have splurged like never before. Here is a sample.
Last year’s record buy at the auction was Mohit Chillar, who went to Bengaluru Bulls for Rs 53 lakh (it was also the highest ever spent on a single player). The top five purchases this year all eclipsed that sum comfortably. The auction process in itself was surreal at times, with the representatives being passive-aggressive in conveying their message across the 11 other tables.
Rohit Kumar, who was one of the last names out of the hat on the first day, had his base price at Rs 20 lakh. But not one team bothered with such formalities.
They straight away bid Rs 50 lakh. If that was meant to scare away other teams, that strategy failed. More than a few teams bid for him before the Bulls got their man for Rs 81 lakh.
The owners hadn’t just changed the rules, they had brought with them with a new manual. Bulls CEO Uday Sinh Wala reckons this will be the new normal. “There are only a handful of Category A players (the most experienced and generally considered the best) to go around and there are 12 of us,” he told Express. “So the jump was certainly expected.”
Even otherwise, a few tried to drive up the price of certain players so as to force sides to overspend. “That is an auction strategy. We used to to drive up (Nitin) Tomar’s price,” Telugu Titans’ Srinivas Sreeramaneni said.“Team UP ended up spending nearly 25% of their purse on one player and that will certainly imbalance their team.”
In fact, Telugu Titans were one of the only teams to drop out of bidding wars after a certain threshold.
“With regard to the amounts that players commanded, I was hoping someone would go for a crore because that’s a big number,” N Prasad, TN’s co-owner, said.
“Because of the way the sport has gone, that really wouldn’t have been a surprise. With regard to our own strategy, I really did want Selvamani. But after a point, we had to stop because if we had ended up paying Rs 75 lakh for him, we would have had to pay 10% extra to our priority pick (Ajay Thakur) as dynamic pricing and we didn’t want to do that.”
But more and more owners will have to start doing the opposite as they seek a winning combination in an unforgiving spectrum where concepts like break even point are pushed to the background.