New Delhi: Rio Olympic champion Carolina Marin of Spain was bagged by Hyderabad Hunters for Rs.61.5 lakh, becoming the costliest buy in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) auction for players held here on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, India`s Rio Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu went to Chennai Smashers for Rs.39 lakh -- way below expectations. Her illustrious compatriot, Saina Nehwal, who is yet to make a comeback after her knee surgery held just after the Rio Games in August, went to Awadhe Warriors for Rs.33 lakh.
The second highest bid went for South Korean woman shuttler Sung Ji Hyun, with Mumbai Rockets paying Rs.60 lakh for her.
Denmark`s world No.6 shuttler Jan `O` Jorgensen proved to be the third costliest after he was bought for Rs.59 lakh in the auction held here at a city hotel. The Dane went to Delhi Acers.
Kidambi Srikanth was one of the biggest gainers from the auction and went for a cool Rs 51 lakh to Awadhe for the league that will be played from January 1-14, 2017 in a round robin format, with each team clashing with the other once.
Denmark`s Viktor Axelsen too got a price of Rs.39 lakh landing up with Bengaluru Blasters, as did Wan Ho Son who was clinched by Delhi.
None of the men`s singles badminton "Big Three" players -- Chinese duo of Chen Long and Lin Dan and Malaysian superstar Lee Chong Wei -- will play in the PBL.
As anticipated, two-time reigning world champion Carolina was the biggest draw in the morning, with Hyderabad Hunters and Delhi Acers engaged in a fierce bidding battle. Eventually, she was bagged by the Hunters who bid Rs 61.5 lakh, spending one-third of their maximum permitted kitty on just one player.
Mumbai Rockets too decided to put most of their eggs in one basket, agreeing to pay Rs 60 lakh for Ji Hyun.
But the surprise was in store for Sindhu -- with the country still celebrating her runner-up finish at Rio. She was expected to get a huge bid. But her name came in the latter part of the draw among the list of 15 `Icon Players` and most of the franchises had already spent their money on buying their aces. Chennai Smashers, who had Sindhu in their roster even last year, smartly played the waiting game and didn`t bid for a single player until her name popped out. They got her without much hankering, for Rs 39 lakh, which has to go down as the bargain buy at the auction.
Sindhu downplayed the underwhelming price she fetched. "It`s not about the money, it`s about badminton," she said.
The franchise owners commented that it was part of the auction game.
In Saina`s case, the Hyderabadi`s uncertainty about her comeback time-frame forced the franchise owners to not wage a bid war and she was retained by Lucknow`s Awadhe Warriors at her base price of Rs. 33 lakh.
Among other Indian players, veteran Jwala Gutta went to Delhi for Rs. 10 lakh, while Ashwini Ponnappa went to Bengaluru for Rs.15 lakh.
Among the remaining `Icon Players`, Hunters landed Wee Kiong Tan of Malaysia for Rs 33 lakh and Rockets bought South Korea`s star Lee Young Dae for Rs. 37.5 lakh.
The Chennai side bought Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia for Rs. 26 lakh while South Korean Son Wan Ho (Rs 39 Lakh) and V. Shem Goh of Malaysia (Rs 33 lakh) went to Delhi and Lucknow respectively. Another South Korean, Yoo Yeon Seong, went to Bengaluru for Rs. 39 lakh.
As many as 154 players went under the hammer, including 16 Olympic medallists. Fifty of them were acquired by the six teams in the fray, shelling out Rs 1.93 crore each.
The base price for the highest bracketed players, the Icons, was Rs 33 lakh while the next best were earmarked at Rs 17 lakh. Each team could acquire a maximum of ten players, including six foreigners.
Auctioneer Bob Hayton from the United Kingdom conducted the proceedings.
In the league, each match will comprise of five matches: two men`s singles, one women`s singles, one men`s doubles and one mixed doubles. Each tie will need to feature two Indians, apart from the Icon player.
PBL`s chief advisor Pullela Gopichand said that this edition of the league will be "exciting" with the kind of players its has attracted.
"The sport has generated a lot of interest in the country, more so after the Rio Olympics. So, in terms of the viewership, it is the best time for this league," Gopichand, who is also the national head coach, said.