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Tai, Rankireddy steal show, Sindhu retained by Hyderabad

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New Delhi, Nov 26: World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying and Indias doubles poster boy Satwiksairaj Rankireddy turned out to be the most sought after players as they went to Bengaluru Raptors and Chennai Superstarz respectively while world champion PV Sindhu was retained by Hyderabad Hunters ahead of the fifth season of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) here on Tuesday.

The fifth season of PBL, organised by Sportzlive under the aegis of the Badminton Association of India, will kick off on January 20 and will continue till February 9 with the matches to be played in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and Lucknow.

The Taiwan ace, who will be spearheading the challenge of the defending champions, became the most expensive non-retained player at the auction as she was snapped by the Bengaluru franchise for Rs 77 lakhs. Rankireddy, who won the Thailand Open in August alongside Chirag Shetty, saw intense bidding from the teams before the 19-year-old went to the Chennai team, rechristened as the Chennai Superstarz this time, for a whopping Rs 62 lakhs.

 "I am really happy to be a part of the Chennai team. I have many friends in Chennai and I am looking forward to play there. Every time we have played here the crowd has been exceptional and to represent them this season will surely be something that I am looking forward to," said Satwiksairaj.

Having created history as the first Indian to be crowned the world champion, PV Sindhu was retained by the former Champions Hyderabad Hunters for a second consecutive season for Rs 77 lakhs. The in-form Sourabh Verma will spearhead the men's singles challenge after being bought for Rs 41 lakhs and in doubles Sikki Reddy  will appear for Hyderabad for the first time.

"We could manage a team which is not only competitive but also have a local connect with PV Sindhu, Sikki Reddy among others being part of the team. We are confident that our fanbase will grow even further this season as we look to give the fans some memorable performances," said Hyderabad Hunters owner VRK Rao, Chairman, Agile Group.

After some spirited performances throughout the season that saw him reaching the final of the Canada Open, 2014 Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap was the next costliest Indian shuttler to be sold to Mumbai Rockets for Rs 43 lakhs. Lakshya Sen, who won four titles in the past two months, will turn out in Chennai colours after the Season 2 champions got him for Rs 36 lakhs.

Korea's World No. 22 doubles ace Ko Sung Hyun and Hong Kong's World No. 24 singles exponent Lee Cheuk Yiu were the only other shuttlers to cross the Rs 50 lakh mark as the former went to Awadhe Warriors for Rs 55 lakhs while the latter was purchased by the North Eastern Warriors for Rs 50 lakhs.

The Bengaluru Raptors will also be bolstered by the presence of World Championships bronze medallist Sai Praneeth, who renewed his ties with the team for Rs 32 lakhs. The other half of India's top men's doubles pair, Chirag Shetty will also remain with Pune 7 Aces after they retained him for Rs 15.5 lakhs.

"We have a very good team led by world champion Hendra Setiawan, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Chris Adcock and our Indian superstar Chirag Shetty. With Rituparna Das, Mithun Manjunath and Kuhoo Garg we have a sprightly mix of youth and experience, which makes our team pretty balanced," said Pune 7 Aces team owner Taapsee Pannu.

Among the seven teams vying for the PBL5 trophy, Season 4 champions Bengaluru Raptors and Awadhe Warriors exhausted their entire purse of Rs 2 crores while Pune 7 Aces went on to save the most at Rs 23.5 lakhs. Pune and Chennai were the only teams to reach the maximum quota of 11 as 71 players were picked from a pool of 154 players at the end of the auction.

The fifth season of the PBL will also see some of India's most promising talents making their debut as the league continues to focus the spotlight on youngsters. Assam girl Ashmita Chaliha will don the jersey of North Eastern Warriors as the franchise lapped her up for Rs 3 lakhs. 16-year-old Gayatri Gopichand, another of India's upcoming stars, went to Chennai Superstarz for Rs 2 lakhs.

PBL5 – At a Glance:

Total number of Teams: 7
Total number of Venues: 4 (Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Chennai)
Total number of players in Auction: 154
Total number of players sold: 71
Most Expensive Buy – Tai Tzu Ying at Rs 77 lakh (Bengaluru Raptors)
Most Expensive Indian Buy – Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy at Rs 62 lakh (Chennai Superstarz)
Expensive Debut – Ashmita Chaliha Rs 3 lakh (North Eastern Warriors)
Auction purse for each team: Rs 2 crore
Player cap: Rs 77 lakh
Minimum players per team: 9
Maximum players per team: 11
Maximum number of foreign players per team: 6
Minimum number of female shuttlers per team: 3
Total prize money: Rs 6 crore

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