Mumbai: India's top five players, including London Games bronze medallst Saina Nehwal, will be the icon players in the $1 million Indian Badminton League (IBL), a six city-based league that was launched here Saturday.
Besides Saina, the other players are Parupalli Kashyap, the London Games men's singles quarterfinalist' world championship bronze medal winning women's pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa and youngster P.V. Players will be bought by the teams in an auction.
The cash rich league will be held next year from June 24 to July 11.
The IBL is a joint initiative of the Badminton Association of India (BAI) and its commercial partner Sporty Solutionz Private Ltd.
The IBL has been sanctioned by the world body, BWF, which has provided window for the tournament in the annual calendar.
Eight cities - Delhi, Nagpur, Pune, Mumbai, Lucknow, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore - have been shortlisted six of them would be up for open sales in the first year. The base price of each team is Rs.3.5 crore.
Each team can have up to four foreign players. But only two are available to play in the best-of-five ties on the lines of the Sudirman Cup world team championships.
"BAI seeks to make badminton the No.1 sport in the country and we hope the path-breaking IBL will trigger the change. Indian badminton is capable of reaching dizzy heights and we seek the support of the sponsors, media and fans to make the IBL a grand success. The revenue generated from the IBL will be pooled back into developing better facilities for badminton players and fans at the venues," said Akhilesh Das Gupta, president of BAI.
Malaysia has already confirmed participation of the players.
"Malaysia has already confirmed to send all its players (including Olympic silver medal winner Lee Chong Wei). The BAI has already approached the Chinese authorities," said Sporty Solutionz CEO Ashish Chadha at the media conference.
Saina said it is a historic moment for the sport in the country.
"It's a historic moment for Indian badminton. The game has become bigger and that's why this is happening. Like the IPL in cricket, there is a lot of interest and I hope it is really successful
"There are so many tournaments the calendar. It (playing in IBL) should not be a problem. I am confident IBL will make the game even more popular among the masses," said Saina.
National coach P Gopichand also welcomed the tournament.
"It's a great boost for Indian badminton. It will be great for the sport. I expect some big names, including from China, to take part as there is good money on offer.
"It will provide a great opportunity for our players to play along with the best players of the world and learn from them. The IBL will be a great catalyst in motivating our youngsters and aspiring talent," said Gopichand, who is also in the ten-member governing council of the League.
Apart from the icon players, Indian players in the top 20 would have a base price of $20,000 and while internationals will have a base price of $10,000.
The base price of Indian national players and junior players' have been fixed at $5,000 and 3,000.
Foreign players ranked in the top-10 will have a base price of $25,000 while those from 11-25 would have $15,000 as the base price.