Saina, Lee Wei top bids in Badminton League auction

Saina, Lee Wei top bids in Badminton League auction

 The much-awaited Indian Badminton League (IBL) auction was held here on Monday, marking a new beginning for the popular sport.

The auction, attended by 2001 All-England champion and national coach Pullela Gopichand, Tollywood actor Nagarjuna Akkineni and a host of other VIPs, witnessed intense bidding for star attractions like Saina Nehwal and Lee Chong Wei, while even unheralded players too fetched good sums.

Expectedly, Lee and Saina fetched the top bids. While Saina, who won the bronze medal at the London Olympics last year and has been the star act of Indian badminton for the last five years, was procured by Hyderabad Hotshots for approximately Rs 71.27 lakh, Malaysian World No 1 Lee was snapped by Mumbai Masters for approximately Rs 80.19 lakh, beating a strong pitch from Banga Beats — the Bangalore franchise.

Banga Beats, however, roped in 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze-medallist and India’s top male shuttler Parupalli Kashyap, one of the six icon players, for around Rs 44.55 lakh.

Rising star and Asian junior champion P V Sindhu was the big buy netted by Lucknow Warriors, while unheralded Pradnya Gadre sprang a huge surprise after being snapped by Hyderabad for approximately Rs 27.48 lakh. Emerging stars B Sai Praneeth (Delhi Smashers) and Guru Sai Dutt (Awadh Warriors, Lucknow) commanded a price of around Rs 23.9 lakh.

“Today’s (Monday’s) auction reflected a healthy and exciting competitive streak among the franchisees and shed light on their game plan,” said Akhilesh Das Gupta, president of the Badminton Association of India. “The IBL auction has set the ball rolling for what promises to be an inimitable experience in sports entertainment,” added Das Gupta, who is also the chairman of the IBL governing council. The auction for the August 14-31 event, which was postponed twice, had 150 players going under the hammer for 66 slots to fill six teams.

Saina, who expressed her desire to play for Hyderabad, was over the moon. “I am very happy to be with my home team. I always wanted to be with either Hyderabad or Lucknow, but eventually I was bought by Hyderabad and it is a great news.” 

The six franchises in the fray are Banga Beats, Delhi Smashers, Hyderabad Hotshots, Awadh Warriors (Lucknow), Mumbai Masters and Pune Pistons.

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