Powerhouse China will not take part in the inaugural Indian Badminton League next month, organisers said yesterday, taking much of the sheen off the million-dollar event.
The IBL, inspired by cricket's popular Indian Premier League, is due to be held from August 14-31 and features six city-based franchises sold to businesses and individuals.
Former India cricket captain Sunil Gavaskar is said to have a stake in the Mumbai franchise which will play against teams from Pune, Lucknow, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The IBL, which begins soon after the world championships in Guangzhou, failed to attract mainland and Korean players despite being touted as badminton's richest event.
"The Chinese will not be coming this year mainly because the IBL clashes with their National Games," an organiser said. "But we hope to convince them to take part next year."
China won all five titles up for grabs at both the world championships in London in 2011 and the London Olympics last year. They also won the Sudirman Cup team event in Malaysia in May.
However, the players up for auction in New Delhi yesterday were picked up for impressive amounts by the various franchises.
Men's world number one Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, the top attraction in the tournament, fetched the highest bid of US$135,000 per year by Gavaskar's Mumbai team.
Women's world number three and local favourite Saina Nehwal was bought by her home team of Hyderabad for US$120,000, while Juliane Schenk of Germany went to Delhi for US$90,000.
Lee welcomed the IBL, saying he was excited about taking part in the tournament. "Any step being taken to promote and popularise badminton is highly commendable," Lee said. "It will be exciting to play in different cities in India. I hope to have a great time teaming up with players from different countries."
Each team will comprise four foreign players, six Indians and one upcoming Indian junior. Teams will play each other twice on a home-and-away basis in the preliminary league with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals. Each tie will consist of five matches - two men's singles, and one each in women's singles and men's and mixed doubles.