Pro Kabaddi League: Young stars set for windfall, stalwarts sweat on selection ahead of potentially unprecedented auction

Pro Kabaddi League's stock has risen considerably over the past few years. The sport's practitioners that were for long deprived of recognition are now household names. The league's promising TV ratings have prompted the organisers to expand the competition to a 12-team, 3-month long affair. But a glaring indicator of the public acceptance of the sport and the league has been the astronomical rise in the money spent by the team management at the player auctions.

In last year's auction, a little less than Rs 30 crore were spent by the 12 franchises. That sum was a massive increase from the Rs. 50 Lakh that were spent by 8 teams in the inaugural auction in 2014. Nitin Tomar became the costliest player to be ever purchased in a kabaddi auction after he attracted a lofty sum of Rs 93 Lakh, falling just short of the crore mark.

On 30 and 31 May, when kabaddi's new-found superstars go under the hammer ahead of PKL's sixth coming, the league will once again look to set a precedent. With each franchise sporting a purse of Rs 4 crore, and with almost the entire roster to fill, the spending is expected to surpass the figure of the previous auctions.

 Pro Kabaddi League: Young stars set for windfall, stalwarts sweat on selection ahead of potentially unprecedented auction

File image of Anup Kumar. Image courtesy: YouTube

422 players that are divided into five categories will be auctioned in Mumbai on Wednesday and Thursday. The categorization is based on previous performances in the league, and each category carries a fixed base price.

Base Price per category:

Category A – Rs 20 Lakh

Category B – Rs 12 Lakh

Category C – Rs 8 Lakh

Category D – Rs 5 Lakh

New Young Players – fixed salary of Rs 6.6 Lakh

Among the 422 players, 58 are overseas players, and 87 are from the Future Kabaddi Heroes Program, a talent hunt conducted by the organisers in association with the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India. The franchises can pick up to three players from this category featuring uncapped players.

The franchises were given the option to retain up to four of their existing players, the 12 teams retained a total of 21 players with many surprise names like Anup Kumar, Rahul Chaudhari, Deepak Hooda, Nitin Tomar, Rishank Devadiga, Surender Nada and Manjeet Chhillar ignored by the franchises.

However, other big names like Ajay Thakur, Pardeep Narwal, Sandeep Narwal, Sachin and Meraj Sheykh etc. have been retained by their respective franchises. Here is how the teams stand ahead of the opening day of the 2018 auction.

Bengal Warriors: Surjeet Singh, Maninder Singh

Bengaluru Bulls: Rohit Kumar

Dabang Delhi K.C.: Meraj Sheykh

Gujarat Fortunegiants: Sachin, Sunil Kumar, Mahendra Rajput

Haryana Steelers: Kuldeep Singh

Patna Pirates: Pardeep Narwal, Jaideep, Jawahar Dagar, Manish Kumar

Puneri Paltan: Sandeep Narwal, Rajesh Mondal, More GB, Girish Maruti Ernak

Tamil Thalaivas: Ajay Thakur, Amit Hooda, C. Arun

Telugu Titans: Nilesh Salunke, Mohsen Maghsoudloujafari

Jaipur Pink Panthers: No players retained

U Mumba: No players retained

UP Yoddha: No players retained

Final Bid Match

On similar lines to the Indian Premier League's 'Right to Match', PKL has introduced a concept named Final Bid Match for the 2018 auction. It will allow the franchises to acquire one or at most two of their former players by matching the highest bid for that particular in the auction.

The number of Final Bid Match cards a team have up their sleeves depend on the number of elite players retained by the franchise. If a franchise has retained four elite players, then it can use 'Final Bid Match' once. If a franchise has retained less than four players, then it can use Final Bid Match twice.

The introduction of this new concept has allowed teams to gamble with some of their priced players. The team management hopes to reacquire the players they let go for a cheaper price than what they would have had to pay to retain them. However, with limited number of Final Bid Match cards, the move very much remains a gamble.

Going into the auction pool means windfall for the younger lot that outperformed their older counterparts last season. Players like Tomar, Devadiga, Nada, Mohit Chhillar, Deepak Hooda are expected to be in high demand due their age and better fitness levels. Former U Mumba captain Anup who also lost his place in the Indian national team to younger blood is among the biggest names to have excluded. However, despite slowing down due to age, Anup will have plenty of suitors thanks to his leadership abilities and on-mat wisdom. His eventual price though may be relatively lower as compared to some of the budding stars.

Players like Manjeet Chhillar, Jasvir Singh, Jeeva Kumar and Dhramaraj Cheralathan etc. might be sweating over finding a bidder after their fitness appeared to have fallen short of the requirements of a three-month long season.

Manjeet missed a host of Jaipur Pink Panthers' games last season and Anup has lost his place in the national side. Jasvir has been a shadow of the player he was in the earlier shorter seasons, while Jeeva Kumar failed to live up to expectations with UP Yoddha last term.

"We saw last season that teams that had more young players, managed to reach the playoffs. In the new format, you need players who can last the distance and avoid injuries. Young players are able to give you that, and that's why in this year's auction we will see teams focus more on young players," Manpreet Singh, who coached Gujarat Fortunegiants to the final in their debut season told Firstpost.

The 2018 Auction will also see the addition of  Bid-o-Meter, a graphical representation that will be used to judge a purchase in three parameters: Steal, Fair and Ambitious

The parameters considered by the algorithm to determine the fair price range of a player are listed below:

Player Performance

75% weightage for VIVO PKL 5 performance

25% weightage for VIVO PKL 1-4 performance

Player Demand Supply – Availability or scarcity of players in each role/position in the pool (Left Raider, Right Raider, Corner defender, Cover defender, etc.)

Auction Purse – Total amount at disposal for franchises to spend in the Auction

Other Guidelines to team formation: 

- A Franchise may choose between 18-25 players to form a team

- Number of overseas players in a team may vary from 2 to 4

- The total salary purse available to each Franchisee is Rs 4 Crores minus the sum paid for retention of Elite Players

The sixth season of Pro Kabaddi will begin on 19 October and last for 13 weeks.

Updated Date: May 29, 2018 22:35:44 IST