Organizers say franchises happy to sign Indians
NEW DELHI (AP) — The organizers of an upcoming franchise-based badminton league in India say the hefty sums received by local players in an auction this week are a sign of their rising profile internationally and will only increase interest in the tournament.
“I’m disappointed that top players like Boonsak Ponsana and Kenechi Tago were not bid for,” Indian Badminton League chief executive Ashish Chadha told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “But the franchises are happy to have bought Indians who have been pulling off some creditable wins in big tournaments.”
The league will be played from Aug. 14-31 in a mixed format featuring six franchise teams - Delhi Smashers, Hyderabad Hotshots, Mumbai Masters, Pune Pistons, Awadhi Warriors and Banga Beats.
Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, the world’s top-ranked man, was the most expensive buy at the auction on Monday, going to Mumbai for $135,000.
In the absence of Chinese players, who were not released by their national federation for the tournament, Indian woman player Saina Nehwal got the second highest bid of $120,000 from Hyderabad.
Juliane Schenk of Germany, ranked a place below Nehwal at number four, was signed by Pune for $90,000, while Asian junior women’s champion P.V. Sindhu of India was taken by Awadh for $80,000.
However, the likes of Ponsana, Tago and Denmark’s Mathias Boe went unsold in the bids, which had a cap of four foreign players per team.
Boe, who won a doubles silver at the London Olympics, expressed disappointment on his Twitter handle.
“After Thomas cup next year I will never set my feet in India or support any events from their side,” Boe tweeted, using the hash tag “unprofessional” .
Chanda said: “We’d have liked all the top players in the league because that would have raised its profile. We worked hard to get them on board but then in the end it was a transparent process of bidding in the presence of media.”
The league will be played with the Sudirman Cup format on a home and away basis, with an extra men’s singles replacing the women’s doubles. The series will now see two men’s singles, a women’s singles, a men’s doubles and a mixed doubles match in each tie.
The change itself led to controversy as Indian women’s doubles players Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa were eventually paid below their initial base price.
Gutta was bought by Delhi for $31,000 and Ponappa by Pune for $25,000 after their base price was reduced from $50,000 to $25,000 due to the change in format.
Gutta and Ponappa, who have previously paired to win a Commonwealth Games gold and a world championship bronze, no longer play doubles together.