First introduced before Season 6, the Final Bid Match (FBM) card has seen its value rise and fall rapidly. Inspired by the Indian Premier League’s Right to Match (RTM) auction option, FBMs are quickly losing favor with PKL teams.
In the Season 6 auctions, Telugu Titans used the FBM card to retain Rahul Chaudhari at ₹1.29 crore. Several high-profile FBMs were used, another big pick being Rishank Devadiga returning to UP Yoddha for ₹1.11 crore.
The following season, Puneri Paltan kept hold of Nitin Tomar, retaining him for ₹1.2 crores. Bengaluru Bulls splurged ₹80 lakhs and an FBM to get Mahender Singh back in the mix for Season 7.
Dabang Delhi, Jaipur Pink Panthers, and Tamil Thalaivas were the only teams not to use FBM in Season 8 auctions. The highest FBM bid was Telugu Titans, who matched a bid of ₹1.30 crore for Siddharth Desai.
In the Season 9 auctions, the card was used only eight times by six franchises. Out of a possible 36 FBMs, the usage of just eight shows that teams do not consider FBMs as a key part of the strategy in the PKL.
Until last year, franchises were allotted FBMs based on the number of elite players retained. But, all 12 teams were given three FBMs to use in the Season 9 auctions. Despite this change, only 22% of the total available FBMs were used by only half the franchises. Here are the possible reasons for the shift in mentality.
1. Teams keener on emerging talent
Teams are prioritizing retaining youngsters with potential over buying experienced players in the auction for the short term. In Season 9, a total of 111 players were retained across categories by the Pro Kabaddi League teams, out of which only 19 fell under the ‘Elite Player’ category. This means that the teams are keeping a keen eye on emerging talent and would prefer to build younger squads over something like the Tamil Thalaivas’ botched 2018 and 2019 ‘All Stars’ project.
2. Changing auction dynamics
Auction dynamics and rising player values mean that it is easier to retain players than buy them in the auction. In the rare cases of players opting to be a part of the auction, teams rarely buy them back with the FBM and actively consider a plan B. For example, Bengaluru Bulls looking beyond Pawan Sehrawat and going for Vikash Kandola.
3. Repurposing the auction
Teams are using the PKL auction either for a complete reset (Telugu Titans) or they see it as an opportunity to plug specific holes (Dabang Delhi). This creates a wide spectrum of possible dynamics that can unfold, making it harder to stick to a particular team composition plan.
4. Finding the next big star
There has been a recent trend of a constant revolving door of new players coming in and impressing immediately. Talented players that can take the league by storm are the highest on the teams’ scouting agenda. This leads to a situation where the league is rarely saturated, but becomes a platform for youngsters to show their capabilities on the biggest stage. 41 franchisee nominated new young players are a part of the teams and 38 existing new young players were retained by the 12 teams, highlighting the shifting priorities.
Once an integral part of the auctions, the FBM card could become an obsolete concept in the following years, as teams would rather invest in having and maintaining their youth academies. The PKL could follow in the IPLs footsteps and have a quadrennial ‘mega auction’ rather than one every year.