New Delhi: It may not come close to the Indian Premier League in terms of popularity and monetary benefits, but Sunday was a special day for the national sport when 246 players went under the hammer for the inaugural Hockey India League. The kind of money on offer was a first in the sport, with top Indian players commanding prices in the range of $70,000 to $80,000 while the overseas players also garnered enough attention.
India skipper and midfielder Sardar Singh ended up with the highest bid going for a whopping $78,000 (approxi mately Rs 42 lakh) to the Delhi WaveRiders. Sardar, whose base price was $27,800, said he “was happy to lead the race for the home play ers and hoped the league will change Indian hockey for good.”
Among the overseas players, the highest bid went to Germany's Olympic gold medal winning captain Moritz winning captain Moritz Fuertse with Ranchi Rhinos picking him up for $75,500, while the hugely talented Dutch midfielder Teun De Nooijer became the highest De Nooijer became the highest grosser in the league at $84,000.
Skipper of the Uttar Pradesh Wizards, de Nooijer was bought for $66,000 but the midfielder's stakes were upped when the franchise later bid an impressive $76,000 for Indian defender V.R. Raghunath.
As per rules, captains/marquee players will be paid 15 per cent more than the highest sold player in their team. The day-long auction, the first of its kind of hockey, had a clear emphasis on the youth, who were rewarded for their talent and recent good performances in the Champions Trophy.
Drag-flickers Raghunath and Rupinderpal Singh drew maximum eyeballs and were intensely fought for. While Delhi managed to clinch Rupinderpal for $57,000, Raghunath was the most aggressively bid Indian player.
The Wizards, who eventually managed to pocket the Karnataka defender, were involved in a furious battle with Delhi.
“I think the teams gave weightage to our India caps and the recent good show at the Champions Trophy. The amount is a little high than what I had thought!” joked Raghunath.
The franchises’ focus was on youth and availability of players over a period of three years, with young defender Amit Rohidas commanding $29,000, five times his base prize of $5,600.
While it was a bonanza for some, it was also reality check for big names Sandeep Singh, Bharat Chetri and Tushar Khandker.
Sandeep, one of the marquee players, barely fetched his base price of $27,800 even as the rest went for handsome prices. For Chetri, it was a setback as none of the teams bid for him, forcing him into the reserve pool before Punjab Warriors lifted his spirits with a bid for $19,000, just above his base price.