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'Pro'gress by leagues and bounds

india Updated: Jan 03, 2013 22:57 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal

Competitions alone no longer seem to whet the appetite of Indian sportspersons. There was a time when, for a humble medal in the national championships, athletes would put in all their effort, knowing well it won't give them anything except pride and a bit of appreciation.

But with professionalism in sport slowly creeping in - the Indian Premier League accelerated the process --- athletes can look forward to a better year.

Five years is too short a time to see your salary jump from Rs. 1.20 lakh to Rs. 35.5 lakh. But that is what professionalism has done to Indian sport.

If India's best drag-flicker Sandeep Singh was getting a measly Rs. 1.2 lakh in 2008 for his effort in the now-defunct Premier Hockey League (PHL), he can probably afford a top-of-the-line C-class Merc for the amount he would be raking in from the Hockey India League (HIL), scheduled to kick off on Jan 14.

Sandeep has an annual contract of Rs. 35.5 lakh for the next three years to appear for the Mumbai-based franchise in the new league, which is a 3000% jump.

Reaping the benefits
"It's a dream come true. Our vision of a professional hockey league in India was restricted to the PHL till the HIL happened. Earlier, we played in the European league to boost our resources, but with the HIL promising more than all our expectations, it's a good time to be playing hockey," says Sandeep.

"The league will also raise the overall standard of the sport," adds India captain Sardar Singh, whose contract worth Rs. 38.5 lakh is the highest among Indian players.

With the IPL being a trendsetter, other disciplines wasted little time to learn. The HIL, if nothing else, is a league modelled on the lines of the money-churning cricket league.

Having a city-based franchise format and the auction of hockey held in the same manner as IPL, the HIL is aiming to emulate the cricket league's success as well.

And for that, they have even roped in the same event management company that takes care of the IPL auction.

And mind you, Sandeep or Sardar are not the only ones to benefit from the HIL auction. Overall, 120 players, including 50 international players, have earned in excess of Rs.17 crore from the auction.

Matmen too are game
The country might have showered its wealth on Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, but they will get another opportunity to cash in on their success when the Indian Wrestling League (IWL) kicks off on November 6.

"The London Games have changed the scenario of Olympic disciplines in the country. Now, we too are recognisable faces, much like the cricketers," says double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, who will be the most sought-after entity in the six franchise-based league.

"Being a sport of the masses, I am sure the league will attract crowds and also help build the fan base in urban India," he adds.

The IWL is unique in the sense that this is the first league that will see the participation of women.

"Though wrestling is a bit late in jumping on the professional league bandwagon, we've taken the lead by including women," says Geeta, who became the first Indian woman wrestler to compete in the Olympics.