Auctions for the fifth season of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) was held in Tuesday, with Indian youngsters Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Lakshya Sen making waves. Sen, who has had a breakthrough season this year, was bought for INR 36 lakhs after a serious bidding war. Entering the auctions with a base price of INR 10 lakhs, Sen was eventually picked up by Chennai Superstarz.
The other Indian who fetched high amounts was Satwiksairaj, who has had a great year on the senior circuit. Chennai once again bagged the star for INR 62 lakhs, up from his base price of INR 25 lakhs. Earlier, players like Sai Praneeth and PV Sindhu had been retained by the respective franchises and were not a part of the auctions.
Experienced star Ashwini Ponnappa, however, remained unsold for the first time in five years. The 30-year-old turned out for Awadhe Warriors last season, but an uninspired show in the international scene this year meant that she was no longer a much-sought-after player.
Ponnappa's loss of form since the CWG 2018 gold
The Indian's career has been on a steady decline ever since she won gold in last year's Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast in the mixed team event. Following the CWG in 2018, she only reached the semi-final stage twice in either the mixed double's or the women's singles event, when she advanced to the semis with Rankireddy and reached the finals with Sikki Reddy — both in the Syed Modi International Badminton Championship 2018. However, with a number of big names pulling out, the level of competition in the tournament can not be termed as the highest.
Her slump has carried into 2019 as well. She has managed to reach the finals only twice this season — with Sikki Reddy in the women's doubles in the Maldives International Challenge and the IDBI Federal Life Insurance tournament in Hyderabad, which was a Super 100 series. Ponnappa is currently ranked 21st in women's doubles and 38th in the mixed doubles in world tour rankings(Race to Guangzhou Rankings)
The 30-year-old Bangalore based shuttler has won multiple honours but now it seems that she is nearing the fag end of her career. Can Ponnappa make a turn around next season? With the Olympics fast approaching, the next few months could spell her fate.