Hyderabad: The top names of badminton will be in action in Hyderabad as the second season of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) kicks off in Hyderabad on the first day of the new year. Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Lucknow and Chennai will host the other legs of the event that will have eight Olympic medallists in fray.
Olympic champion Carolina Marin and silver medallist P. V. Sindhu will square off once again as Marin will represent Sindhu’s hometown of Hyderabad while the Indian badminton ace turns up for Chennai. That match should be billed as the biggest draw in the event that promises to be bigger and grander this time around.
“I am excited to play for Hyderabad at the PBL, which is an amazing league,” Marin, the world No.1, said via video conference from Madrid. Hyderabad Hunters had shelled out Rs 61 lakh for Marin at the players auction. “I thank Hyderabad for selecting me on the team and hope many fans will turn up for the matches at the event in January. I promise to do my best to get the team to the finals and win it,” the Spaniard said.
Marin admitted she didn’t know much of the city but promises to explore it with the team. The camaraderie between the Olympic rivals was evident when Sindhu invited her to her house for a meal while in Hyderabad. “It would be my pleasure to visit your place and meet your Mom and Dad,” Marin responded chirpily.
Back to the court, Marin said her match against Sindhu — in a repeat of the Olympic final — will be good for the tournament as well as the fans.
Asked to term Sindhu and Saina as opponents, Marin said “They are different players. Sindhu is good with the attack while Saina has quality in her shots.”
Marin also said the Olympic gold had worked wonders for her. “Everyone in Spain recognises me now. Also, many kids want to take up badminton as a sport after my Olympic success,” she enthused.
Sindhu on her part, said she was “looking forward to playing Marin again,” perhaps to avenge her loss in Rio. The tournament format has been trimmed. Matches will be of best of three 11 point games, infusing pace and adding a new twist to the two-week event that has Rs 3 crore up for the winners, with the runners-up taking home half the sum. The third and fourth placed teams stand to gain Rs 75 lakh each.
The Indian field will be led by Sindhu, Parupalli Kashyap and B. Sumeeth Reddy (Chennai Smashers), Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth (Awadhe Warriors), Jwala Gutta (Delhi Acers), Ajay Jayaram (Mumbai Rockets), Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma (Hyderabad Hunters), Saurabh Verma (Bengaluru Blasters) along with pool of junior players in each team.
Srikanth was buoyant about Awadhe Warriors’ chances. “We have many Olympic medallists in the side and would say we stand a very good chance to win the tournament,” the World No.13 said.
Sai Praneeth differed though. “Hyderabad Hunters is a good team with the singles and doubles world No.1s in our ranks,” he said. For up and coming shuttlers Gadde Ruthvika Shivani and Siril Varma it’s special to share the dugout with the big players and feed off their experiences. “It’s a good exposure for us to play with the seniors,” Siril said.
The Delhi Acers are owned by Infinite Computer Solutions while the Chennai Smashers and the Hyderabad Hunters are owned by Wone Pvt. Ltd and Agile Security Force Pvt. Ltd. Awadh Warriors, which has been in the League since its inception, is owned by Sahara Adventure Sports Limited while the Mumbai Rockets are owned by Medhavi. Sports Pvt. Ltd the Bengaluru team is owned by the consortium that has invested in Kerala Blasters, an Indian Super League team.
Teams: Delhi Acers, Mumbai Rockets, Bangalore Blasters, Lucknow Awadhe Warriors, Hyderabad Hunters, Chennai Smashers.
Dates: January 1-14, 2017.
Format: Best of 3 games, 11 points.
Number of matches in each Tie: 5.