One of the primary objectives of the various sports leagues is to encourage more and more youngsters to take to the game. And if young talent is not promoted, the main purpose is defeated.
If the Indian Badminton League (IBL) continues to function in the way it has started, budding talent in the country will not benefit from the venture in any way.
An official statement from the IBL a couple of months ago read, “More than 150 players are expected to go under the hammer at the IBL players’ auction for 66 slots in six teams. Each franchisee can feature 11 players, including a maximum of four foreign shuttlers and one under-19 player from their catchment area.”
When the auction finally took place on Monday, each of the six teams selected only teams of 10, amounting to only 60. Also, only three teams picked up under-19 players. The Mumbai Masters picked up Rasika Raje, women’s doubles player K Maneesha and Ruthvika Shivani went to the Awadh (Lucknow) Warriors and J Meghana went to the Banga Beats, the Bangalore franchise.
But other impressive talents like Harsheel Dani, Aditya Joshi, Rohit Yadav and Rituparna Das were not picked by any franchise. Ashish Chadha, chief executive officer of Sporty Solutionz, the commercial partner of IBL, contradicted the initial statement of the league.
“Each team must still have one under-19 player. But they can be picked over the next 10 days and the teams can spend a maximum of `1 lakh on a player over and above their purse,” he claimed. Thus, in a move in accordance with Chadha’s statement, the Mumbai Masters have signed Das as their eleventh player.
However, any under-19 player signed after the auction can fetch a maximum of Rs. 1 lakh means the player, in all probability, will lose close to $64,000 (according to the fixed rate of the dollar in the IBL) since the minimum base price of a player during the auction was approximately $1,64,000.
Another issue is whether the U-19 player will manage any playing time at all, as there are questions over whether they will get to play at all, especially with the rule that even if a team has wrapped up the best-of-five tie 3-0, they will have to take the next to rubbers seriously because points will be awarded for every single match. “They will mainly travel with the team. I don’t think teams will risk them against top oppositions in the league,” Chadha remarked.
It is not as if badminton alone is facing such starting confusion. The catchment area rule, which was introduced ahead of the firstIPL auction, was later jettisoned. The IBL may also closely look into its governing council, where the presence of P Gopichand has come as a surprise because he is the chief national coach and many players come from his academy