New Delhi: He may be out of the national reckoning for more than a year now because of disciplinary issues, but experienced mid-fielder Gurbaj Singh turned out to be the most sought-after player in the closed bid for Hockey India League (HIL) 2017, fetching the most expensive buy tag.
First to go in the bid, Gurbaj was bought by 2015 champions Ranchi Rays for a whopping $99,000.
A live-wire in the right flank, Gurbaj was suspended for nine months by Hockey India in August 2015 on charges of indulging in groupism and creating disharmony within the team during the Hockey World League semi-finals in Antwerp, Belgium.
Among the foreign players, German forward Christopher Ruhr was the costliest buy as he was bought by Ranchi Rays for $75,000.
Other notable bids were for Tom Craig (Kalinga Lancers), Robert van der Horst (Jaypee Punjab Warriors) and Seve Van Ass (Uttar Pradesh Wizards).
Many franchises put faith on young players also, with 18-year-old defender Hardik Singh being the most expensive of the lot, picked by Jaypee Punjab Warriors for $39,000.
Other notable buys among youngsters were Shamsher Singh and Ajay Yadav, both of whom were picked up by Uttar Pradesh Wizards, while India's U-17 Asia Cup winning captain Nilam Sanjeep Xess went to Kalinga Lancers.
In the closed bid process, six franchises participating in HIL 2017 -- Dabang Mumbai, Delhi Waveriders, Jaypee Punjab Warriors, Kalinga Lancers, Ranchi Rays and Uttar Pradesh Wizards -- picked up their players to complete their teams for the next season's event.
According to the rules, all teams operated with a $725,000 cap on the purse. Having retained their squad for a significantly lesser amount, Ranchi Rays and Jaypee Punjab Warriors had a larger purse available for the bidding process.
Among other notable players available in the closed bid were Indian goalkeeper Sushant Tirkey, Netherlands internationals Jaap Stockmann, Mink van der Weerden and Olympic Gold medallist Lucas Rossi of Argentina.
Talking about the auction process, newly-elected International Hockey Federation president and chairman of HIL Narinder Batra said, "I would first like to emphasise the importance of the HIL in contributing to Indian hockey's rise in the rankings.
"The professionalism of the league is commendable and all credit for this must go to the franchises themselves, who have conducted their work in a manner that is source of inspiration for world hockey. In regard to the closed bid, I'm happy to see that keeping with the trend, even this year, the process has been more rewarding to the players, and the teams have consistently looked to bid way higher than their base prices.
"It goes to show how valuable and talented each of the players are, and subsequently how tightly contested and closely-knit the league is now," he said.