The twice re-scheduled auction of the twice postponed Indian Badminton League will finally take place here on Monday.
The absence of the top Chinese players has been the biggest downside of the inaugural $1million-event. The Chinese who monopolized the gold medals in London Olympics have preferred to prepare ahead of their National Games beginning from August 31. Only the now-retired Bao Chunlai, the reigning Asian Games champion, and doubles specialist Zheng Bo provide the mild Chinese flavour.
Franchisees from Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Lucknow and Pune face a cap of approximately $275,000 to bid for a squad of 11 players — including a maximum of four overseas players — from a pool of over 100 names.
The competition begins here on August 14 before moving to other franchisee-cities. Mumbai hosts the final on August 31. Each tie consisting of two men’s singles apart from one match each of women’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles.
The decision to replace the originally planned women’s doubles with a second men’s singles match was taken by the IBL’s Governing Council mainly due to two reasons. The absence of enough “recognisable” names in women’s doubles and the opportunity available for more Indian players to figure in each tie, in the event of two men singles matches.
Following the change of format — without women’s doubles — there is much curiosity surrounding the eventual bid, individually for doubles specialists G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa.
Though among the six “icon” players — each with a base price of $50,000 — Jwala, back from a break, and Ashwini no longer form a pair. In fact, their results in doubles in the past year, both in women doubles and mixed doubles, have been most ordinary.
Since the services of Jwala and Ashwini will be limited only to mixed oubles, it will be interesting to see how any franchisee justifies the value-for-money factor behind their eventual bid. On the brighter side, Saina Nehwal will be the most-sought, much like men’s World No. 1 Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei. The other two icon players, P. Kashyap and P. V. Sindhu will also be in demand, since they are likely to enjoy the support of the crowd much more than some higher-ranked overseas players.
Like the icon players, there a few more players whose base price is $50,000. They are Boonsak Ponsana (Thailand) and Hu Yun (Hong Kong), ranked fourth and sixth in the world.
Among the ladies, Juliane Schenk (Germany) and rising star Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand), fourth and fifth in the ranking list, also have a similar base price. Strangely, 24th-ranked Ajay Jayaram begins at $30,000 as compared to $25,000 for World No. 5 Kenichi Tago (Japan).
Former Olympic champion and now-retired Taufik Hidayat has an understandably modest base price of $15,000. In contrast, Tina Baun, who retired after winning this year’s All England title, will see her bid beginning from $30,000.
The Danish doubles specialists Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen have a base price of $50,000 each while compatriots in mixed doubles, Joachim Fischer Nielsen, Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Juhl start with a minimum bid of $35,000 each.