The new season of the revamped Premier Badminton League (PBL), commencing on Saturday in Mumbai with the host team, Mumbai Rockets, taking on the Saina Nehwal-spearheaded Awadhe Warriors, will experiment with a new concept - Trump match to keep the interest of the spectators till the end of a tie.
The League, revived after a gap of two years following a successful inaugural Indian Badminton League in 2013, has brought in the fresh idea in which each of the competing teams will nominate one match in each tie as their Trump Card.
A victory by the team that picked the particular game as its Trump will provide it with one extra point but a defeat will set it back by one point, and the intrigue generated by this new concept would keep the ties alive till the end, according to Indian badminton ace Pullela Gopichand.
“It’s a great addition to the league to ensure that the excitement remains till the end of the tie. Two teams can nominate the same match as Trump match. This ensures that the last two matches are also important in a tie,” said Gopichand here in the run-up to the League opener.
“Even a 3-0 lead is not sufficient to win as you still can lose the tie. Spectators’ interest will be kept alive. It needs to be seen how the players react to the extra pressure. Some play better under pressure and some others crack,” he said.
World no. 2 Saina Nehwal, who commanded USD 100,000 at the auction, would be leading Awadhe Warriors’ challenge against Mumbai Rockets who appear strong in men’s singles with two top men shuttlers of the country - H S Prannoy and R M V Gurusaidutt - leading their charge.
The host outfit has a strong men’s doubles players in Denmark’s Mathias Boe and Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov. World no. 20, Prannoy, has already sounded upbeat about his team’s chances.
“Over the last two years I have been playing really well, along with Gurusaidutt. We both are in good form. We are a pretty balanced outfit. We have really good doubles players too,” said the 23-year-old, who hails from Kerala, here ahead of the tournament opener.
The opening tie will be followed on January 3 by clashes between Hyderabad Hunters and Bengaluru Top Guns, to be followed by the evening encounter between the Rockets and Chennai Smashers.
The Top Guns have roped in a pretty strong men’s singles players in Kidambi Srikanth, India’s highest ranked player in the world (no. 9), Anand Pawar and Sameer Verma - who recently won the men’s singles crown at the Tata Open Indian Challenge.
The Malaysian men’s doubles combination of Kim Wah Lim and Thien How Hoon, ranked 32nd, adds meat to the squad’s overall strength along with India’s women’s doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa.
Hyderabad, on the other hand, have the formidable Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, currently the world no. 5, to lead the challenge from the front. He’s got the added experience of having played in season 1 of the League.
Hunters would also depend on 2012 Olympic Games quarter finalist Parupalli Kashyap, the world no. 15 who is on the comeback trail after an injury lay-off, in singles.
They also have the vast experience of Carsten Mogensen (men’s/mixed doubles) of Denmark and veteran Indian shuttler Jwala Gutta (women’s/mixed doubles). The team looks very well equipped.
Chennai Smashers don’t have any top men’s singles players in their ranks and would be depending a lot on the performance of their top woman singles player P V Sindhu, ranked 12th in the world.
They have the seasoned Indian men’s doubles player Prannav Jerry Chopra to bank on along with England’s top mixed doubles player Chris Adcock whose regular partner Gabrielle Adcock, however, will be representing Delhi Acers.
The second leg of the tournament, after its two-day stint in Mumbai, is to be held in Lucknow on January 4, 5 and 6.