One had thought and hoped that Sushil Kumar would be the biggest draw at the Pro Wrestling League auctions which were held in the Capital on Tuesday morning. For the Olympic silver and bronze medalist was one of the biggest and most prominent names present in the august gathering which also had six franchise owners among the star cast. But at the end of the day to everyone’s surprise three women wrestlers were purchased higher than Sushil. Why even his compatriot Yogeshwar Dutt went for a higher price than Sushil--this was the sort of vagaries which PWL the world’s largest and costliest wrestling league brought about.
“Well all I can say is that when a wrestler’s name comes up in the auction, then one can’t describe the exact parameters. At the beginning, we all thought that Sushil would fetch the highest price. But then once the auctions got underway, I am pretty sure that the franchise owners had ‘certain other’ parameters which ensured that it was neither Sushil nor Yogeshwar who went for the highest money at the end of the day,” said a former international wrestler.
A franchise owner who preferred to remain anonymous said that the set norms were not taken into consideration anymore. ‘’See if one thought that the likes of Sushil and Yogeshwar would be the biggest beneficiaries at the end of the auction they were not on the right track. The women field here is pretty good and plus the fact that the women grapplers also have a star quotient also goes in their favour,” said the franchise owner.
For the record, Ukraine’s woman wrestler Oksana Herhel was the highest sold for Rs 41.3 lakh to Haryana, an amount even the defending world champion in the 58 kg category would not have bargained for at the beginning of the auctions. Punjab’s getting Vasilisa Marzaliuk in the 69kg class for Rs 40.2 lakh and Delhi’s buy of Elif Yesilirmak for Rs 39.60 lakhs was the main talking point of the auctions. From the Indian point of view Yogeshwar Dutt .( Rs 39.70-Haryana ) and Sushil Kumar (38.2-UP) became the highest paid.
A Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) official said the fact that Sushil was the highest paid did not mean it was a decline of the Indian’s brand value. “I want to make one thing very clear. Some people came to me and told me that Brand Sushil has come down? No, that is not the reason. lets say Sushil had been sold for his base price then one could have safely concluded that Sushil’s branding had gone down,” said the WFI official.
There is another theory which makes some sense. A senior WFI official said that he noticed that the franchise owners were a bit hesitant to release the money initially. “To me there was a very discernable trend—of the franchis owners not in a mood to splurge. As a result, Sushil and Yogeshwar whose bidding was at the beginning did not go for the sort of price one would would have equated them with,” said the official.
The WFI official then proceeded to prove an instance to substantiate his point in which the wrestler with the better credentials was sold for a lesser price. He was citing the ‘curious case’ of Mausam Khatri in the 97kg class. “Mausam who is the country’s leading wrestler went for Rs 16 lakh, while compatriot Satyavrat Kadiyan fetched Rs20 lakh. It must be mentioned here that Mausam has beaten Satyavrat twice in trials and is widely acknowledged as India’s best. But then It was Mausam whose name came for bidding before Satyavrat, hence he fetched a lower amount. So I think my theory about the early bidder going for a lower price stands vindicated,” he said.
But this theory too isn’t entirely clean cut. Jagdish Kaliraman, the advisor to the Haryana franchise, said that his side wasn’t very enthusiastic about bidding about Sushil even prior to the contest. “This isn’t about picking individual wrestlers but about seeing who would be the most suitable considering it is a team competition. Sushil has just recovered from an injury, so we were unsure of his form for the tournament so we did not want to gamble on him,” said Kaliraman.
What Kaliraman does concede, is that the team’s strategy eventually played out well for the women wrestlers. “Because the teams had bid conservatively, towards the end of the auction they all had a lot of money which they could spend. So when the time came for the women wrestlers, the teams could go all out,” so we did,” he said..