India mid-fielder Sardar Singh was the cynosure of all eyes, but there were few takers for former India skipper Bharat Chettri at the inaugural Hockey India League (HIL) auction here on Sunday.
Sardar, who led India in the just-concluded Champions Trophy in Melbourne, became the highest-paid marquee player as the Delhi franchise bought him for $78,000 (Rs. 42.5 lakh). Chettri, who was the goalkeeper during the London Games, went unsold. His base price was $18,500 (R10 lakh)
It was also a day of mixed luck for the two outstanding drag-flickers, VR Raghunath and Sandeep Singh. The former hogged the limelight, as there was intense bidding for him, which raised his price tag from $13,900 (Rs. 7.56 lakh) to $76,000 (Rs. 41.40 lakh). He was bought by the Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
Sandeep failed to get a sum higher than his base price of $27,800 (Rs. 15.13 lakh) from the Mumbai team. Rupinderpal Singh, another young India defender, was worth $56,000 (Rs. 30.48 lakh). He was bought by Delhi after starting with a modest base price of $9,250 (Rs. 5.03 lakh).
Among the foreign players, Gemany's Moritz Fuertse was the highest-paid marquee player, as he was worth $75,000 (Rs. 40.8 lakh) for the Ranchi Rhinos. His base price was $25,000 (Rs. 13.6 lakh).
Their recent performance in the Champions Trophy was the reason for Sardar and Raghunath commanding a good price in the auction. Sardar was elated. "I am extremely content with the price," he said after the bid.
Raghunath said the league would be an excellent opportunity for Indian players, particularly those on the fringes, to showcase their skills. "Playing with top players including foreigners should help the youngsters raise the level of their skills."
The celebrated Teun de Nooijer of The Netherlands too had a similar view. "The league will help the young blood gain valuable experience," said Nooijer, who is also the marquee player of the Uttar Pradesh Wizards, and was sold for $66,000 (Rs. 35.9 lakh) against a base price of $25,000.
According to him, the intense bidding meant that the five teams were at par. "Winning the title will be tough," he said.
Sardar in Rs. 1 cr club
With this big catch, Sardar has become the first Indian hockey player to touch Rs. 1 crore mark in a financial year (March 2012 to March 2013).
This amount does not include the cash awards he recieved from the government this year. Apart from his HIL earnings, he is also the brand ambassador of the League, which fetched him Rs. 15 lakh.
His endorsements amount to around Rs. 45 lakh per year, which includes big brands like Reebok and Jaypee Cements among others.