PBL 2019: Bengaluru Raptors beat Mumbai Rockets to win maiden title
Immediately after the first match of the final between Bengaluru Raptors and Mumbai Rockets came a moment that captured the legacy of Indian badminton --- Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand, the only All England champions from India, flanking the glittering Premier Badminton League trophy.
The presence of two greats who have laid a strong foundation for the sport in the country, a packed stadium, and decibel levels that went through the roof, it was a grand celebration of Indian badminton. The final lived up to the hype as home team Bengaluru Raptors defeated Mumbai Rockets 4-3 to win their maiden PBL title. Mumbai finished runners-up for the third time.
With scores 3-3 after four matches, it boiled down to the men’s doubles that showcased three former giants of the game. The famed Indonesian pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, representing the home team, against South Korean great Lee Yong Dae and his new partner Gi Jung Kim, promised a thriller. With the crowd firmly behind them, Ahsan and Setiawan sealed the tie 15-13, 15-10 amid rapturous celebrations.
It was not a good start for Bengaluru Raptors as they lost the mixed doubles featuring Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith against Mumbai’s Pia Zebadiah Bernadet and Kim Gi Jung. The experienced Pia and Kim wrapped up their trump match 15-8, 15-14 after surviving some tense moments in the final stretch. Their win gave Mumbai a 2-0 lead.
Kidambi Srikanth, however, kept Bengaluru in the hunt, handing 21-year-old Anders Antonsen a lesson in badminton. He extended his winning streak to eight matches. Showing intent and aggression from the start, Srikanth won 15-7, 15-10. The accuracy, deft touch and power of his smashes left the Dane stranded on several occasions. The Indian, egged on by the vociferous crowd, was never in trouble and pulled one back for the home team.
Shreyansi Pardeshi, playing for Mumbai Rockets, had a tough opponent in Vu Thi Thang of Thailand, ranked 59. But to her credit, Shreyansi fought hard and the long rallies in the second game kept the spectators interested. Though she lost 15-8, 15-9, the Rockets girl gave her all.
After winning their trump match, Bengaluru grabbed the lead for the first time (3-2). It was up to world No 12 Sameer Verma to keep Mumbai Rockets afloat against compatriot B Sai Praneeth. Sameer didn’t disappoint and rallied to win 7-15, 15-12, 15-3. Praneeth made a terrific start, opening a 8-1 lead. The gap was too big for Sameer to bridge and Praneeth comfortably pocketed the first game.
Sameer bounced back in the second game and quickly went up 5-2. Praneeth caught up with his free-flowing strokeplay to nose ahead 10-8. But Praneeth also made errors while going for the lines. Sameer, on the other hand, cleverly kept the shuttle in play and in no time drew level. In the decider, it was the fitter Sameer who went all out against a tiring Praneeth.
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