Bengaluru: Ready to grip the city in an action-packed avatar of Badminton, the Bengaluru franchise launched their team in the city today. Unveiling their logo, the Top Guns also revealed their squad consisting of eight male and two female badminton players from across the world. Captaining the Bengaluru team would be superstar shuttler Kidambi Srikanth.
Leading from the front, will be the team's marquee player Kidambi Srikanth, the highest ranked Indian men's singles player who won the Arjuna award for badminton in 2015 after capping off a wonderful 2014 with a maiden Super Series Premier title by an Indian male at the 2014 China Open. In the women's category, home girl Ashwini Ponnappa will be leading the charge with her vault of experience including a historic women's doubles gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and winning the 2015 Canada Open title to round off her season. Joining Ashwini as the lone women's singles player is Suo Di, the Chinese player who has the ability to run top players close to the finish line including an exciting battle with Saina Nehwal in the China Open.
The men's singles category will also include upcoming shuttler Sameer Verma and veteran Anand Pawar. The men's doubles category is led by the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Joachim Fischer Nielsen from Denmark. He ended 2015 in style with the Japan Open title and qualifying for the Dubai Super Series finals as well. He will once again team up with Ashwini, whom he partnered in the erstwhile Indian Badminton League playing for the Pune team.
Joining the Dane will be Robert Blair from Scotland who was a late addition to the team but has years of experience on the doubles circuit including a World Championship silver and a Commonwealth Games bronze. The Malaysian doubles aces Khim Wah Lim and Hoon Thiem How along with India's B Sumeeth Reddy round off the Top Guns squad.
Speaking about the return of the PBL in January, Kidambi Srikanth was excited about the opportunity to play in a team format. "As an athlete you always look for opportunities to learn and better your skills; this team, with its mix of world-class players is the perfect opportunity for me to observe and share insights about the game with my teammates. Having played in this format before, I am looking forward to being a part of the Bengaluru Top Guns. We have a very balanced squad and the new format is sure to bring out the best in our players. It is also a privilege for me to represent this city as it has been a place close to my heart both personally and professionally."
Continuing on what to expect this season, Bangalore's star player Ashwini Ponnappa said "With the league being held in January, it will help set the tone of the season and help all of us begin the year in a great note. We have a perfect mix of youth and experience which will definitely be a differential factor between us and other teams. For me personally, having previously played a similar format with Joachim will add to my game and boost our chances of doing better than the rest. Also with such exceptional players like Sameer and Srikanth will surely help us to soar, come New Year. I am also very excited to be playing for my home team and am looking forward to the home support that will definitely be strong. I will work hard to win the league for the fans of Bangalore."
The Premier Badminton League which begins in Mumbai on January 2nd, 2016 will be travelling to Hyderabad, New Delhi, Lucknow and Chennai, before coming to Bengaluru. The city will play host to the league on 12th and 13th January. The semi-finals will also be held here on January 14th before the league makes its way to the finals to be held in New Delhi on January 17th.
The format will include two men's singles fixtures with a women's singles, men's doubles and mixed doubles fixture each. The difference between international badminton matches and the fixtures in the league are that the matches end on 15 points with a sudden death point to decide the result of the contest at 14 all. Each team will also get to select one of the five fixtures they play in a tie as a "trump match" where the team earns a bonus point in a victory and a negative point in a loss. For the "trump match", the team cannot choose the same player more than twice in the league stage and once in the knock out stage.
Concluding the proceedings at the launch, Prasad Mangipudi, CEO, Brand Prix said "Firstly, I am very glad to be owning the team that represents the city which produced India's first true badminton champion, Prakash Padukone. We wanted to buy the Bengaluru franchise because it rocks with youthful spirit and energy and we know we can count on our fans to come out in huge support for their team. We are looking forward to the fan support not only from Bengaluru but also from the rest of Karnataka. In the end, we hope to make a significant impact on this city and this state through our involvement in the PBL."