Sindhu, Marin tie to mark start

Sindhu, Marin tie to mark start

An array of top stars, including Olympic and World Champion Carolina Marin of Spain, and Indias Rio Olympics silver medalist P V Sindhu are all set to slug it out in season 4 of the Premier Badminton League that begins here on Saturday

Mumbai: An array of top stars, including Olympic and World Champion Carolina Marin of Spain, and India’s Rio Olympics silver medalist P V Sindhu are all set to slug it out in season 4 of the Premier Badminton League that begins here on Saturday.

The other top international stars, who will be seen in action in the nine-team PBL featuring 90 players from 17 countries in all, which is set to conclude in Bengaluru on January 13, are Dane Viktor Axelsen, Lee Yong Dae of Korea and Indians K Srikanth, H S Pranoy and Saina Nehwal.

Pune 7 Aces, spearheaded by Marin, is the new franchise team in the league that will see eight Olympic medalists in action in five cities, including Pune and Ahmedabad, which will be hosting matches for the first time.

The nine teams Delhi Dashers, Ahmedabad Smash Masters, Awadhe Warriors, Bengaluru Raptors, Mumbai Rockets, Hyderabad Hunters, Chennai Smashes, North Eastern Warriors and debutantes Pune 7 Aces would be slugging it out for a total prize fund of Rs 6 crore.

The winners will take home Rs 3 crore, the runners-up Rs 1.5 crore and the 3rd and 4th pacers Rs 75 lakh each. The inaugural round is being held here at the NSCI indoor stadium in Worli up to December 24 while the semi finals and final would be held in Bengaluru.

“I will be playing for Hyderabad Hunters in PBL4 and I hope I do well as well as the team,” said Sindhu, who bagged her first major women’s singles title in the year-ending BWF World Tour finals earlier this month, on Friday. “PBL having the top players in all seasons is not a joke. It’s very good for Indian badminton. This time I am with the (North Eastern) Warriors. I hope we go all out (for the title),” said Saina at the pre season media conference here.

The bronze medal winner in the 2012 London Olympics will be playing her first tournament after her marriage with fellow-shuttler and London Games men’s singles quarter finalist, Parupalli Kashyap, who will turn out for Chennai Smashers. “I am looking forward to the PBL. I am with a new team - Pune. I will try my best,” said Pune captain Marin.

Marin’s clash with Sindhu here would set the tone for the league. The league debutantes have a strong team with Marin, Asian junior boys’ champion Lakshya Sen, doubles specialist Mathias Boe, Ajay Jayaram and Prajakta Sawant, among others. The League will also have a strong Chinese flavour too as three players from China along with a host of Indian juniors will be playing in the PBL for the first time.

Playing in end-of-year PBL affects body: Saina
The Premier Badminton League (PBL), starting here on Saturday, is being held at the end of the year after a hectic season and at times it does affect the players’ bodies, feels star Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal.

“Everyone gives their 100 per cent, that’s for sure, and wants to win. But it’s the end of the year and sometimes it gets to the body. It's not easy for all the players. It’s one of the toughest tournaments, but everyone gives their best,” said Saina at a PBL pre-season 4 media conference here.

Saina, who would be leading North Eastern Warriors in the nine-team League, was responding to a query whether the players could replicate in the PBL the intensity with which they normally play in the Super Series events. “It’s not the same as a tournament. It is a team event. You enjoy playing a team event. For us it's sometimes like a festival. We see so many matches. Youngsters also benefit. Badminton is growing now because of the performances (of the top shuttlers) and because of the league,” insisted the 2012 London Olympic Games women’s singles bronze medallist.

Reigning Olympic and world women's singles champion Carolina Marin agreed with Saina. “The pressure is much different. For us, we have to think about team not ourselves,” said Marin who is to captain league debutantes Pune 7 Aces. National badminton coach Pullela Gopichand said the league has helped someone like Kidambi Srikanth over the last three years to improve his game at the international level.

“Take for example Srikanth -- the league has helped him. It has helped even (doubles players) Satviksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini (Ponappa) who got a lot of confidence after playing in it. “There has been a huge positive response from junior players who have travelled with the teams. So many have benefited from being part of the teams - playing or not playing,” said Gopi.

Atul Pande of the franchise league organisers Sportzlive (under the aegis of the Badminton Association of India) said the only window the Badminton World Federation provides them was now (in December). “In Super Series events they (players) have to play a match every day but here it's usually once every third day. It's easier on the body,” he explained. He conceded that the franchises were yet to make a profit.

“Generally speaking, no. Without prize money no, they are not making money. It's like so many other leagues. At this point of time the central revenue pool is not enough for the franchises to break even. It takes time to increase the pool,” he said.

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