National champion Mithun Manjunath emerged as the top buy at the players’ auction of the Grand Prix Badminton League (GPBL) Season 2, which is scheduled to be held in Bengaluru from August 27 to September 9.
The 25-year-old from Bengaluru, who had stunned World No.7 Loh Kean Yew just a few days back at the Australian Open, was acquired by the Chennai Superstarz for a staggering Rs 14.5 lakhs after a bidding war with Bengaluru Tigers.
Mithun, whose base price was Rs 8 lakh, is in the icon category.
As many as 15 international players were also drafted after the teams were given the option of choosing not more than two international players.
Shin Baek Cheol was the second-highest buy with Bengaluru Tigers acquiring the Republic of Korea shuttler for Rs 14 lakhs.
Cheol’s compatriot Lee Dong Keun was picked up by Gujarat Lions for Rs 13 lakhs, while World Championships bronze medallist B Sai Praneeth was bought by Northeast Rhinos for Rs 10 lakhs.
The fifth-highest buy was Polina Buhrova of Ukraine, who was drafted by Mumbai Wolves for Rs 9 lakhs.
The draft saw 80 players being selected out of a roster of 150 to represent eight teams in the upcoming season.
More than 500 players had registered for the auction. Each of the eight teams - Bengaluru Tigers, Hyderabad Hounds, Chennai Superstarz, Gujarat Lions, Kerala Tuskers, Mumbai Wolves, Pune Panthers and Northeast Rhinos - had a player purse of Rs 35 lakhs.
Each team consists of an icon player, a minimum of two Tier-1 players, a minimum of two Tier-2 players and a minimum of two women players with an option to choose not more than two international players.
“We adopted a ‘maximum of two international players per team’ rule because we wanted more Indian players to be part of GPBL,” said Prashanth Reddy, commissioner GPBL.
“We are thrilled with the outcome of the player draft. The enthusiasm displayed by the teams and fans alike showcases the popularity and growth of badminton as a sport.”
Former India player Arvind Bhat, league director, said: “Considering the talent, the teams have strategically formed their squads. All the teams are balanced. However, considering the explosive format that we have adopted for the League, any team can win on a given day.”
The Karnataka High Court has allowed the participation of Indian shuttlers in GPBL Season 2 after staying the operation of the Badminton Association of India’s (BAI) circular asking the players to refrain from taking part in the tournament.
There were talks about making GPBL a 10-team affair but the organisers couldn’t get two more sides on board.
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