Discontent in IBL grows; India's two ace shuttlers threaten to pull out

India's top men's doubles players K.T. Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas now say they, too, have been shortchanged by the organisers of the Indian Badminton League (IBL), and have threatened to pull out of the inaugural league.

After star women's doubles players Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa's criticism of the organisers for reducing their base price at the players' auction without informing them, Rupesh and Sanave have also complained of getting a raw deal.

Rupesh and Thomas Thursday said told that like Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, their base price also was slashed without their knowledge, and they are so upset that they are wondering whether they should play in the IBL after the way they have been treated.

Sanave and Rupesh, who were ranked 13th in the world at one stage of their career, were picked up by Pune Pistols for USD 5,000.

"It is a shocker for me. I am really sad. In the contract it was clearly mentioned that senior Indian players who have played in Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Thomas Cup and Super Series events would have a base price starting from USD 15,000. But I don't know what happened," Rupesh has asserted.

Rupesh Kumar, Sanave Thomas
Rupesh Kumar (R) and Sanave Thomas (L) play against Niger's Jinkan Ifraimu and Ola Fagbemi (not in picture) during the men's doubles tournament as part of the Badminton World Championships 2010 in Paris. Pic/AFP

"I never speak up but this time I could not keep quiet. I have to take a stand soon. Sporty Solutionz (joint organisers of IBL) has sent me the contract. They have asked me to sign it and send it back to them but I don't know what to do," he said.

"On May 30, we sent the consent form where we indicated that we qualify for the $15,000 bracket going by the prospectus in the information kit. Now, suddenly after the auction I get to know that I was sold to Pune Pistons for a base price of $5,000. I feel cheated as we were not taken into confidence," Rupesh said.

"There has been no communication from them and we got to know after it came out in the news. Now we don't feel like playing. If the organisers do not review our case, I am afraid we may have to think of pulling out," he added.

Rupesh's partner Thomas echoed his views, saying he felt cheated.

"We have been representing India for the last 10 years and have played at the World Championships, Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. After representing the country and winning medals and tournaments if this is how we are treated, then I do not know what to say. If we had qualified for the higher category, we should have been auctioned at that price," said Thomas.

Rupesh and Thomas have also won the national championships for a record seven years from 2004 to 2010.

"It is just hard to digest the way we have been treated. And suddenly we see other juniors bagging better deals than us. I am not against them getting the money, but we should be given the respect we deserve," the 33-year-old said.

"We are not mere district or state level players. We have been the top doubles players of the country and have won several tournaments. And it is not really about the money, it is about respect. The organisers have contacted us to sign the contract but now I am unsure," he added.

"I signed the contract for USD 15,000 but then I heard from media that our base price was slashed to USD 5,000. That is very difficult to accept," said Thomas.

"The organisers said the base price of all senior Indian players, who have played in international tournaments such as Commonwealth Games, will start from USD 15,000. I really don't understand what went wrong. I got a call yesterday from IBL asking me to sign the contract and then only I got to know about it," he added.

Rupesh also said he was in full agreement with Jwala and Ashwini whose base prices were also reduced from $50,000 to $25,000 Monday.

"This is just senseless. It is ridiculous to treat our Icon Players with such scant respect. You can't be changing after committing, and it hurts the players' pride," he added.

Rupesh and Sanave are the latest to express their dissatisfaction over IBL organisers decision to slash the base prices of some Indian players.

Commonwealth Games gold medallists Jwala and Ashwini, who were icon players for the event, had earlier blasted the IBL organisers after their USD 50,000 base tags were reduced to USD 25,000 after they went unsold at Sunday's closed bidding.

Men's singles specialist Arvind Bhat, however, was satisfied with the amount he had managed to fetch from the auction.

"When I had signed the contract my base price was not mentioned but I'm okay with my base price. I think it is great a initiative and I am positive about it," said Arvind, who was bought by Banga Beats, the Bangalore franchise, for USD 7,500.

"It is still a lot of money which the players will make for just two weeks of event. I have played in the German league for many years, so I know how important a step like IBL is," he added. 

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