Top Indian men's shuttlers made a killing with HS Prannoy and Kidambi Srikanth emerging as the most expensive buys at the Premier Badminton League players' auction on Monday in Hyderabad. While Prannoy was picked up by Ahmedabad Smash Masters for Rs 62 lakh, Awadhe Warriors had to shell out Rs 56.1 lakh to get the services of Srikanth.
Emerging star Sameer Verma (Mumbai Rockets; Rs 52 lakh) and Ajay Jayaram (North East Warriors Rs 45 lakh) were also much in demand as eight teams opened their purse strings for country's talent to not only build their brands but to also give themselves a shot at a whopping Rs 6 crore prize money on offer.
Among women's singles shuttlers, PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal were retained by their respective franchises.
Each retained player gets 25 percent hike in his/her salary from last year, while players, who are bought by using the 'Right-To-Match' card only get a 10 percent increase from the last year's selling price.
So, defending champions Chennai Smashers retained Olympic silver medallist Sindhu for Rs 48.75 lakh.
The 22-year-old, who recently won a silver at the World Championship at Glasgow and clinched the Korea Super Series, had fetched Rs 39 lakhs during the last auction.
Saina, who had returned with a bronze medal from Glasgow, was retained for Rs 41.25 lakh. She was retained by Awadhe Warriors for the base price of Rs 33 lakhs last season.
Srikanth, who clinched back-to-back titles at Indonesia and Australia, will also play for his old team Awadhe Warriors after they used the 'Right To Match' card. In the battle for Prannoy, Mumbai Rockets gave up the battle once they realised that Ahmedabad were not going to withdraw at any cost.
The final bid of Rs 62 lakh, compared to last year's Rs 25 lakh, means a mind-boggling jump of nearly 250 percent for the shuttler.
Not surprisingly, he was all smiles when he realised that he had emerged as the most expensive player of the upcoming PBL.
"I am really surprised. I did not expect such a huge jump," Prannoy said at the press conference later.
"I thought I might go for Rs 10 or 15 lakh more but this is amazing. I am really happy to be part of Ahmedabad Smash Masters and I am looking forward to the new season," Prannoy added.
He conceded that he would be under a little more pressure but felt confident of carrying his team forward.
With women's World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying by his side, and a good mix of Indian and foreign players, the Ahmedabad outfit might well turn out to be the team to beat this year.
Among others, doubles players - India's Satwik Sairaj, Korea's Lee Young Dae and Russia's Vladimir Ivanov - were all retained by their old teams and were not be part of the auction.
According to the rules, there will be 11 players in each franchise with a maximum of five foreign players and minimum of three women players and each team need to spend a minimum of Rs. 2.12 crore.
The player's auction started after more than two hours delay and the first player to go under the hammer was the women's world no. 1 Tai Tzu Ying, one of the nine icon players, who was bought by Ahmedabad Smash Masters for Rs 52 lakhs.
Rio Olympics gold medallist Carolina Marin from Spain was bought by Hyderabad Hunters, the team she played last season, for a base price of Rs 50 lakhs.
Newly crowned world champion and World No. 1 Denmark's Viktor Axelsen was bought by his old team Bengaluru Blasters for Rs 50 lakhs, while world number 2 Son Wan Ho and world number 5 Sung Ji Hyun went to Delhi Acers for Rs 50 lakh each.
Chinese Taipei's Tzu Wei Wang, who is ranked 10th in the world in men's singles, will be the icon player for North Eastern Warriors after he was bought by them for Rs 52 lakhs.
Olympics silver medallist in doubles, Christina Pedersen became the most expensive doubles player after she was picked up by Awadhe Warriors for Rs 42 lakh.
India's top mixed doubles player, Pranaav Jerry Chopra, was taken by Delhi Acers for Rs 18 lacs, while young doubles player Arathi Sara Sunil will make her PBL debut for Delhi Acers, who bought her for Rs 3 lakhs.
Among other prominent Indian players, men's singles player Parupalli Kashyap went under the hammer for Rs 20 lakh for Awadhe Warriors and Ajay Jairam was bought for Rs 44 lakh against a base price of Rs 20 lakh by North East Warriors.
(With PTI Inputs)