Controversy erupts as Indian badminton star alleges bias in Premier Badminton League auction
The PBL3 auction has raised a lot of questions about the importance, or the lack of it, given to Indian doubles shuttlers.
The Indian singles shuttlers may have hogged all the limelight at the Premier Badminton League (PBL) 2018 auction with HS Prannoy becoming the costliest player but it is a very different scene in doubles. Once more the Indian doubles shuttlers have been pushed into the shadows with most teams splurging on foreign recruits, which the World No. 33 men’s doubles player, B Sumeeth Reddy has raised his voice against on social media.
He has asked for the teams to have at least one Indian in doubles and mixed, thus giving the home players a prized opportunity to learn from the foreigners.
Sumeeth’s tweets are justified after the flavour in the doubles department of the PBL 3 auction was anything but Indian.
The teams have gone to great lengths to secure the services of even retired greats, leaving the current bunch of performing Indians totally out of the spotlight. The names of retired Koreans like Lee Yong Dae, Yoo Yeon Seong, Shin Baek Cheol and Kim Sa Rang prominently feature out of the 23 foreign doubles players hired in the third season of the PBL.
In contrast, the number of home doubles shuttlers is just 18.
Disparity in pay startling
What is even more startling is the disparity in pay between the foreign recruits and the Indian shuttlers. The retired world champion Shin Baek Chol has attracted a staggering Rs. 55 lakhs from the new entrants, the North Eastern Warriors with Chris Adcock of the Chennai Smashers close behind at Rs. 54 lakhs.
Another retired Korean, Yoo Yeon Seong has commanded a whopping Rs. 53 lakhs from the Hyderabad Hunters. The other retired stars, Kim Sa Rang of the Bengaluru Blasters and Lee Yong Dae of the Mumbai Rockets have been priced at Rs. 49 lakhs and approx. Rs. 47 lakhs respectively.
India’s Pranaav Jerry Chopra, the country’s No. 1 in mixed doubles and a semi-finalist in September’s Japan Open Superseries, has had to be content with just Rs. 18 lakhs that the Delhi Acers are paying him. His regular mixed doubles partner, N Sikki Reddy has been retained for less than Rs. 7 lakhs by the Bengaluru franchise.
Considering that the pair has been top 20 and has won the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold title this year, the step-motherly treatment that they have been subjected to is certainly bound to raise more than a few questions.
The retention process states a player can get only 25 per cent hike from their previous year’s salary, without keeping any provision for a player’s performances in the past 12 months. Sikki’s example calls for a radical change in the rule in the light of the consistency that she has displayed in terms of results on the circuit and rankings this year.
Delhi Acers’ Ashwini Ponnappa, who has medals from the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, is the highest-paid Indian doubles player at Rs. 20 lakhs. In the same women’s doubles section, defending champions Chennai Smashers’ Gabrielle Adcock boasts of a mind-boggling Rs. 48 lakhs which makes the gulf even more evident.
PBL debutants Ahmedabad Smash Masters have just a solitary Indian doubles exponent in their ranks -- Nandagopal Kidambi. The Kharkiv International champion is languishing at just Rs. 1 lakh while his foreign teammates, Law Cheuk Him and Lee Chun Hei Reginald have Rs. 18 lakhs and Rs. 32 lakhs against their names, respectively.
17-year-old Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, one of the most promising doubles stars from the country, has a meagre sub-Rs. 4 lakh price in the Hyderabad Hunters squad. His regular men’s doubles partner, Chirag Shetty is no better and will get just Rs. 5 lakhs from the North Eastern Warriors.
Rankireddy and Shetty have been touted as the next big Indian men’s doubles pair to watch out for and they have recently given a testament of their immense talent at the Korea Open Superseries where they reached the quarter-finals.
Sumeeth Reddy has guaranted himself only a paltry sum of Rs. 3 lakhs which is Rs. 51 lakhs less than his Chennai Smashers teammate Chris Adcock's price.
Other players speak out
Clearly, the auction has exposed that the highly accomplished foreign stars are the favoured ones in this pan-Indian league. Investing on the big names is the safer option for the franchises, thus robbing the Indians of some well-deserved financial reward.
The highly-improved performances of the Indian doubles players too could not do much to influence the team owners’ decisions, a point that has been underlined by Aparna Balan.
The multiple time national doubles champion was recently crowned the winner in women’s doubles at the recently-concluded All-India Senior Ranking Badminton Tournament alongside Sruthi KP. But the 31-year-old veteran does not even find a place in any of the eight teams and she did not hesitate in calling out the matter on Twitter.
At a time when Indian doubles players are looking a spruced up bunch after the arrival of the Malaysian coach Tan Kim Her, all they need is more encouragement and motivation. The picture that the PBL 3 has presented certainly speaks of no such support from the teams.
It is imperative that the team owners take into account the recent performances of their homegrown players before arriving at the final price. While the singles stars have raked in the moolah, the doubles stars have only had to accept their crumbs.
For a nation that is looking to progress in all areas of the sport, that is not a welcoming sight at all.