After much speculation and suspense, the Indian Badminton League (IBL) will finally get cracking with players going under the hammer here today.
There have been doubts over the inaugural edition of the league, a clone of the highly successful Indian Premier League (IPL), when the players’ auction got postponed not once but thrice.
Scheduled in March, the auction was first postponed to June 30 and then to July 19 before settling for today. After cricket, hockey and boxing, badminton too jumped into the business of city-based franchise leagues with IBL, touted as the world’s richest tournament having a purse of USD 1 million.
The auction, to be conducted by auctioneer Bob Hayton, will see the top shuttlers from all major badminton nations — barring China — being sold to six franchises.
“The Chinese are not participating because IBL is clashing with their national games,” Badminton Association of India (BAI) vice-president TPS Puri said. It is known that Chinese shuttlers have skipped many tournaments for their nationals.
The city-based franchises are Hyderabad Hotshots (owned by PVP Group), Banga Beats (BOP Group), Delhi Smashers (Krrish Group), Lucknow Warriors (Sahara), Pune Pistons (Burman family) and Mumbai Masters (Telugu film star Akkineni Nagarjuna and ex-cricketer V Chamundeshwarnath).
Saina Nehwal and World No 1 Lee Chong Wei will be the prize catches in the pool of several top players, including World No 4 Boonsak Ponsana, World No 6 Hun Yu and former Olympic and World Champion Taufik Hidayat in the men’s singles.
In the women’s singles, Germany’s World No 4 Juliane Schenk and 2013 India Open Super Series champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand are also sought after.
The maximum base price of USD 50,000 has been given to the six icon players — Saina, Chong Wei, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa, Parupalli Kashyap and PV Sindhu. Overseas big names like Schenk, Intanon, Yu and Ponsana have also been tagged at USD 50,000.
Interestingly, the format is such that the tie will have five matches excluding women’s doubles. There will be a women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and two men’s singles.
“There was a shortage of women’s doubles players and also the franchises wanted more singles action,” added Puri, also a member of the IBL governing council.
The league kicks-off on August 14 with a tie between Delhi Smashers and Pune Pistons and each franchise will host a two-day leg with a total of 90 matches. The top four franchises will clash in the semi-finals and the winners will meet in the final on August 31 in Mumbai.
The rules have also been tweaked to make the game more competitive and attractive for the spectators. Unlike international rules, where the victor needs a two-point gap to win the match, in IBL the player who first reaches 21 points in the first two games will win the match.
But if the match goes into the third and deciding game, it will be an 11-point game instead of 21. Here too, the winner will not need a two-point gap to triumph.
The money at stake in the IBL
The money at the disposal of the six franchises
The base price for the six icon players
Number of Indian players in each franchise
Number of foreign players in each franchise
Number of junior national player in each franchise
Photos: Abhishek Bachchan and Farah Khan at Boman Irani's birthday bash
Spotted: Shah Rukh Khan at Morani's bungalow in Mumbai
Spotted: Sonam Kapoor and sister Rhea at Mumbai airport
Photos: Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor get 'Befikre' on 'Super Dancer'
In pictures: 12 child artistes who turned into beautiful divas