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The first set of 10 defenders who went under the hammer at the inaugural Hockey India League auction here on Sunday included two of India's young drag-flickers VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh. The outcome of the bidding of this lot was to prove a microcosm of the kind of players teams would spend their money on.
At 24, Raghunath is the vice-captain of the national team, while Rupinder Pal Singh, two years younger, is making rapid strides as a drag-flicker.
Both were members of the Indian team, currently in a rebuilding phase, that finished a creditable fourth at the Champions Trophy in Melbourne. They are also two of the three full-backs included in the team for the Asian Champions Trophy that begins this week in Doha. Raghunath and Rupinder have age on their side and are the in-form players. It was little surprise then that both were bought following a bidding bloodbath between the five teams.
The 'sold at' price of these two drag-flickers, considered key to India's immediate future plans were over $50,000 each —Rupinder to Punjab Warriors at $56,000, while Raghunath is to be paid $76,000 by the Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
Compare these amounts with what proven match-winners Jamie Dwyer ($78,200), Moritz Fuertse ($83,950), Teun De Nooijer ($87,400) and Sardar Singh ($78,000) — all marquee players — received and it becomes clear that team owners were ready to repose faith in the abilities of India's next generation of hockey stars.
The youth-policy continued to prevail when Nithin Thimmaiah, 24, and Shivendra Singh, 29, were bought for $27,500 each when the first lot of forwards were put up for auction. Thimmaiah was picked for the Champions Trophy after impressing the selectors during the senior nationals held at Bangalore. His base price was $5,600 while bidding for Shivendra, currently out of favour, began at $18,550.