Bengaluru Raptors crowned PBL 2020 champions
Bengaluru Raptors enjoy a good fan following and it shows during their matches. Such was the vocal support it seemed they were home away from home in their final against North Eastern Warriors. Egged on by the crowd, defending champions Bengaluru won the thrilling finale 4-2, pocketing a prize purse of Rs 3 crore.
They made a winning start when B Sai Praneeth rallied to beat Lee Cheuk Yiu 14-15, 15-9, 15-3. Praneeth, the top ranked Indian player at 11, had tamely lost to Kazumasa Sakai a day earlier in the semi-final against Pune 7 Aces. On Sunday, however, Praneeth picked himself up, showing his range of strokes, and toyed with Cheuk Yiu in the second and third games. Smashes flew thick and fast and the drop shots often left Cheuk Yiu stranded. He raced through in the third game, leaving an exasperated Cheuk Yiu to cover a deficit of 0-11. From there it was a point of no return for the Hong Kong player.
The men’s doubles match got the crowd roaring to an edge-of-the-seat thriller. The two accomplished international doubles stars—Korean Lee Yong Dae and Thailand’s Bodin Isara playing their trump match for North Eastern Warriors—were made to sweat by Bengaluru’s Arun George and Rian Agung Saputro before winning 15-11, 13-15, 15-14.
George and Saputro, the 2017 world championships silver medalists, bounced back after losing the first game and doggedly returned everything that came their way. Their energy on the court was infectious and the two led 8-6 in the decider and later 13-11. The pressure started to show on both pairs. Isara and Yong Dae levelled but Saputro’s smash gave Bengaluru a match point at 14-13.
However, Saputro succumbed to the nerves while finishing off—a service error followed by his return hitting the net saw North Eastern Warriors go ahead 2-1. The fate of the tie now hung on the match between world’s two top-10 players, Bengaluru’s Tai Tzu Ying and Michelle Li of North Eastern Warriors.
World No. 10 Li had beaten Tai Tzu last year in Japan but could not repeat the act. World No 2 Tai Tzu played her characteristic fast-paced collection of deceptive strokes to win 15-9, 15-12, leveling the tie 2-2 for Bengaluru, with their trump match—mixed doubles—to follow. The pair of Chan Peng Soon and Eom Hye Won did not have it easy. North Eastern Warriors’ Kim Ha Na and young Krishna Prasad Garaga played their hearts out but went down 14-15, 15-14, 12-15.