The first piece of Premier Badminton League season 5 auction took place today as the Player Auction saw a total of 154 shuttlers go under the hammer in the capital city of New Delhi.
The seven franchises of the Badminton league - Awadhe Warriors, Bengaluru Raptors, Chennai Superstarz, Hyderabad Hunters, Mumbai Rockets, North Eastern Warriors and Pune 7Aces had the opportunity to retain their stars from Premier Badminton League Season 4.
It was not much of a surprise when the Hyderabad Hunters team made their decision to retain Indian badminton superstar PV Sindhu as their marquee player for PBL Season 5. The retention by the Hyderabad Hunters franchise meant that the Olympic medalist shuttler will pocket a handsome 77 Lakhs for the fifth season.
PV Sindhu was the costliest player to be retained by any franchise, who had a purse of 2 crores INR to build their squad from the pool of players. The minimum number of players to be bought by each franchise was nine, with a maximum of six foreign players permitted per franchise.
After acquiring the services of PV Sindhu, the Hyderabad Hunters were patient in their approach for a couple of rounds before grabbing Russian shuttler Vladimir Ivanov for a price of 14 Lakhs. The 6ft 6in Ivanov possesses a mean smash and is a seasoned doubles specialist having won the 2004 European Championships and the 2006 All England Open along with fellow countryman Ivan Sozonov.
Having got a doubles specialist, the Hunters needed to add a competent Men's singles prospect as well. After a bidding war, they were able to get their pick in the form of Indian shuttler Sourabh Verma who rose from the base price of 10 Lakhs to a healthy sum of 41 Lakhs in the end.
Verma has been in fine form over the past couple of years having won four BWF World Tour Super 100 level tournaments and reaching his highest BWF World Ranking of 30. He currently ranks World No. 30 in Men's Singles and will be a key player for the Hyderabad Hunters this season.
To add more strength to their Men's Singles department, the Hunters picked up Malaysian shuttler Liew Daren for a price of 33 Lakhs after a bidding war that saw the player rise from his base price of 5 Lakhs. Daren is a former World No. 10 in Men's Singles and has won the 2012 French Open Super Series and can prove a strong component in the Hunters' singles lineup.
The Hyderabad Hunters proceeded with caution after having splurged on four players so far and made the necessary signings to round off their squad.
Ruthvika Shivani Gadde was the addition to the Women's Singles category at the base price of 1 Lakh. Gadde hails from the gamed Pullela Gopichand Academy and has been active on the circuit for the past eight years. She has won gold medals at the 2016 South Asian Games as well as the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in singles and team events.
Gadde even defeated her Hunters teammate PV Sindhu at the 2016 South Asian Games in the final to clinch the biggest individual triumph of her career so far.
19-year old Kiran George was the next base price buy for the Hyderabad Hunters at 1 Lakh. George has been a multiple-time winner at the Yonex Sunrise All India Senior Ranking tournament held in 2019.
N. Sikki Reddy going unsold initially was a surprise to many but the Hyderabad Hunters snapped the Women's Doubles and Mixed Doubles specialist at her base price of 20 Lakhs. Reddy has earned laurels for the Indian team at both the 2016 South Asian Games and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games along with a few number of International BWF Grand Prix titles as well. Her addition to the squad provides a strong option in the Women's Doubles and Mixed Doubles category.
The final additions to the Hyderabad Hunters squad were the British pairing of Ben Lane and Sean Vendy for base price values of 6.75 Lakhs and 5 .75 Lakhs respectively. Both Lane and Vendy have played together for more than five years and won three BWF International Challenge/Series competitions.
Thus, the makeup of the final Hyderabad Hunters appears as a well-rounded bunch of shuttlers with a mix of experience and youth. The presence of the megastar PV Sindhu directly catapults them into a contender spot but it will be interesting to see how the squad performs this season.
Hyderabad Hunters Premier Badminton League Season 5 Squad
Pusarla V Sindhu, Ruthvika Shivani Gadde (Women's Singles), Vladimir Ivanov, Sourabh Verma, Kiran George, Daren Liew (Men's Singles), Sean Vendy, Ben Lane (Men's Doubles), N. Sikki Reddy (Women's Doubles)