World champion PV Sindhu will likely take on mentor Pullela Gopichand’s daughter Gayatri Gopichand in what promises to be an interesting opening day of the fifth edition of Premier Badminton League, starting in Chennai on Monday.
The opening encounter features Hyderabad Hunters and rechristened Chennai Superstarz as the tournament kicks off in the absence of several star names, given this is the year of Olympic Games. Sindhu and Chinese Taipei superstar Tai Tzu Ying are undoubtedly the biggest names to feature in the tournament this time around.
Seven teams - Awadhe Warriors, Bengaluru Raptors, Mumbai Rockets, Hyderabad Hunters, Chennai Superstarz, North Eastern Warriors and Pune 7 Aces – will slug it out for the prize money of Rs 6 crores.
This will be the second consecutive season with Hyderabad Hunters for the Rio Olympic silver medallist Sindhu, who led the Chennai franchise to title glory in the second season.
With Chennai’s Kirsty Gilmour playing at the Thailand Masters, this will be a priceless opportunity for the 16-year-old debutante Gayatri to hone her skills and gain confidence in front of home fans.
“I have fond memories of winning the title for the Chennai franchise in the second season here,” said Sindhu ahead of the season-opener. “I thoroughly enjoy the love and support every time I play here. I am excited for the new season and I hope people will come and watch us play,”
Lakshya Sen, who had a breakthrough season in 2019, headlines the men’s singles department for Chennai Superstarz along with S Sankar Muthusamy and K Sathish Kumar. The Chennai crowd will also get to witness the fiery smashing skills of one half of India’s No 1 men’s doubles team, with Satwiksairaj Rankireddy donning the Chennai jersey this time.
The tournament will miss the presence of Srikanth Kidambi, HS Prannoy, Carolina Marin and Viktor Axelsen, to name a few superstar players who have graced the tournament in the past. In the absence of Srikanth, Tai Tzu Ying will be leading the charge for defending champions Bengaluru Raptors.
The tournament is taking place in three venues: Chennai, Lucknow and Hyderabad.
Here’s a look at the full schedule of the tournament:
Details of the format and Trump Matches here.
As in the previous seasons, the games will be up to 15 points. If the teams are level at 14-14, the winner of the next point pockets the game.
Here’s a look at all the squads for the tournament:
Eyeing their second title, the Hyderabad Hunters will be led by reigning world champion PV Sindhu.
Sourabh Verma (India) – Having played for three different teams in the past four editions, this will be the first time Sourabh Verma will appear in Hyderabad colours.
Daren Liew (Malaysia) – With a career-high ranking of 10 in men’s singles and a World Championships bronze medal in his kitty, Malaysia’s Daren Liew is a player to watch out for.
Kiran George (India) - Debutant George will look to use the PBL platform to gain more experience as he aims for the higher echelons in his sport
PV Sindhu (India) – This would be PV Sindhu’s second season with the Hyderabad Hunters who retained her for Rs 77 lakhs, making her the joint-most expensive player of the fifth edition along with Tai Tzu Ying. India’s biggest star at the moment, Sindhu did not opt to pull out of the event despite this being an Olympic year.
Ruthvika Shivani Gadde (India) – The 2016 South Asian Games gold medallist is looking to bounce back after a tryst with injuries.
Vladimir Ivanov (Russia) – A PBL veteran, Vladimir Ivanov has never missed a season.
Ben Lane (England) & Sean Vendy (England) – 22-year-old Ben Lane and 23-year-old Sean Vendy had a good 2019 on the circuit and will look to bring their A-game to the league.
Sikki Reddy (India) – One of India’s top doubles players, 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Sikki Reddy was a part of the Bengaluru franchise that finished as runners-up in the third season. She was a last-minute buy at the auction for Hunters.
Having twice fallen at the last hurdle, Mumbai Rockets will look to lift the trophy for the first time in season five.
Parupalli Kashyap (India) – Having appeared for three different teams in four seasons, 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap will be donning the Mumbai Rockets jersey for the first time. He has had a resurgence on the BWF circuit in the past year and will look to carry that forward in the league.
Lee Dong Keun (Korea) – 2014 Asiad team gold winner, Lee Dong Keun of South Korea has six BWF titles to his credit and a career-best ranking of No 16.
Shreyansh Jaiswal (India) – For Maldives International semi-finalist Shreyansh Jaiswal, this is a great opportunity to hone his skills
Kim Sa Rang (Korea) - An integral part of the Bengaluru franchise on their way to the final in Season 3, two-time World Championships bronze medal winner Kim Sa Rang will be playing in Mumbai colours in the new season.
Kim Gi Jung (Korea) – Kim Gi Jung won a couple of bronze medals from the World Championships in partnership with Kim Sa Rang.
Pranaav Jerry Chopra (India) – A regular on the BWF tour for mixed doubles, Chopra will be key for the Mumbai squad this time around.
Shlok Ramchandran (India) - As the back-up to more prominent stars, Shlok will have to wait for his chances.
Shreyanshi Pardeshi (India) – Rising star Shreyanshi Pardeshi can take a lot out of this chance to lead her team’s women’s singles attack.Having made her debut in Season 3, the Indian youngster will have a lot riding on her shoulders as the sole singles player in the side.
Pia Zebadiah (Indonesia) – Dynamic mixed doubles shuttler Pia Zebadiah will be continuing her association with the Mumbai Rockets for a second consecutive year.
Jessica Pugh (England) – 22-year-old Jessica Pugh has already established herself as one doubles player to watch out for on the BWF circuit and she will making her debut in the league.
Pune 7 Aces
With quite a few debutants and youngsters in the line-up, Pune 7 Aces will be bringing in an element of unpredictability to the table.
Loh Kean Yew (Singapore) – 22-year-old Loh Kean Yew is one of the best upcoming talent on the BWF circuit. His giant-killing run at the Thailand Masters that culminated in him winning the title from the qualifying rounds. He is one of the players to watch out for this year.
Kazumasa Sakai (Japan) – With a career best of world No 15 Kazumasa Sakai is pretty familiar is a fierce competitor when on song. The Japanese shuttler is making his first appearance in the league.
Mithun Manjunath (India) – Part of the championship wining Bengaluru Raptors’ squad last year, he is unlikely to see too much game time.
Chirag Shetty (India) – Chirag Shetty made history in 2019 as he and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy became the first Indian doubles pair to win a Super 500 title at the Thailand Open. Shetty’s speed and deft touches at the net are a big season why Pune retained him and he will relish playing with the world champion.
Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia) – Age is just a number for Indonesia’s 35-year-old Hendra Setiawan. The Indonesian veteran, who played a key role in taking the Bengaluru Raptors to the title, is the reigning world champion alongside Mohammad Ahsan.
Chris Adcock (England) – After 4 seasons with the Chennai franchise, this will be the first time that Commonwealth Games gold medallist Chris Adcock would be appearing for a different team. Though he is not in the same team as wife and partner Gabby, Chris will bring plenty of PBL experience to the table.
MR Arjun (India) – A promising doubles player himself, Arjun should relish working with some star shuttlers.
Thi Trang Vu (Vietnam) – The World No 47 will hope to cause a few upsets in what is an area of weakness for the Pune squad.
Rituparna Das (India) – Having battled injuries, former Indian national champion Rituparna Das is high on confidence after a fabulous end to the 2019 season, where she made it to the final at the Italy International and the semi-finals at the Syed Modi International. A big chance for her to impress, if she gets playing time.
Tse Ying Suet (Hong Kong) – Armed with titles from the Korea Masters and the Taipei Open, the Asian Games and World Championships medallist is currently in rich vein of form as evidenced by her World No 10 ranking.
Kuhoo Garg (India) – A part of the Mumbai Rockets squad last year, Kuhoo Garg will don Pune colours this time.
Having won the title in the second season, the Chennai franchise will be playing the fifth edition of the PBL under a new name.
Tommy Sugiarto (Indonesia) – Former World Championships bronze medallist Tommy Sugiarto will bring the experience to compliment the effervescence of youth in the squad.
Lakshya Sen (India) – 18-year-old Sen made an incredible transition to the senior circuit in 2019, collecting five titles. His 2020 has not gotten off to a good start but he will look to make an impact in the league this season.
S Sankar Muthusamy (India) and K Sathish Kumar (India) – Two local talents to watch out for, but unlikely to get too much game time.
Sumeeth Reddy (India) and Manu Attri (India) – Having a seasoned pair like Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy in the team will add depth to the Chennai squad. A regular pair on the circuit, their chemistry will come in handy.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (India) – With his array of fiery smashes, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy would be looking to impress the fans of the Chennai franchise in his first appearance for the yellow brigade. There is no doubting his quality but it will be interesting to see how the franchise use his services.
Kirsty Gilmour (Scotland) – This is her third season in the league and the Scot who is renowned for her fighting abilities, would bring more experience to the table.
Gayatri Gopichand (India) – A name to watch out for. Gayatri Gopichand has been touted for a long time as one of the most promising talents from Indian badminton powerhouse. This year she will get regular chances to showcase that promise.
Gabrielle Adcock (England) – A long-standing member of the Chennai franchise, 2017 World Championship bronze winner Gabby will play for them for the fourth consecutive season, albeit without her partner and husband Chris.
Sanjana Santosh (India) – Sanjana Santosh got a taste of PBL victory when she was with the Bengaluru Raptors last season.
Awadhe Warriors will be looking to end their search for their first PBL title, but have arguably the weakest squad on paper.
Subhankar Dey (India) – Subhankar Dey’s run to the title at the SaarLorLux Open in 2018, where he beat Lin Dan on the way, was a big statement. He is in the top 50 in the world now and will look to make a mark,
Ajay Jayaram (India) – The injury-ridden Ajay will add experience to the squad and, on his day, can cause an upset or two.
Wong Wing Ki Vincent (Hong Kong) – Former World No. 10 Wong Wing Ki Vincent returns to the Awadhe Warriors to provide solidity to the men’s singles line-up.
Shin Baek Cheol (Korea) and Ko Sung Hyun (Korea) – The Awadhe Warriors have opted for the seasoned pair of Shin Baek Cheol and Ko Sung Hyun and that could make a lot of difference. The former World No. 1 Ko Sung Hyun’s partnership with former world champion Shin Baek Cheol yielded three titles in 2019 catapulting them to No 22 in the world rankings.
Ivan Sozonov (Russia) – Former World No 7 Ivan Sozonov a PBL regular.
Beiwen Zhang (USA) – India Open 2018 champion, Zhang will have to be at her best as she leads Awadhe’s challenge.
Tanvi Lad (India) – A chance for the youngster who would be keen to use this opportunity to sharpen her skills.
Christinna Pedersen (Denmark) – One of the world’s most accomplished doubles shuttlers, Christinna Pedersen makes a comeback to the sport that has given her two Olympic medals, five World Championships medals, and a whole lot more titles.
All eyes will be on Sai Praneeth and Tai Tzu Ying as the defending champions look to make it two titles in a row.
Sai Praneeth (India) - Having retained Sai Praneeth, the Raptors have a player high on confidence as he returns to the league after his career-best season that saw him win not just a World Championships medal but also break into the top 10 of the world rankings for the very first time.
Brice Leverdez (France) – Having appeared for the Chennai and the Pune franchises in three of the past four seasons, journeyman Leverdez should provide solid support to Sai in the absence of Srikanth.
Ansal Yadav (India) – 22-year-old promising talent, Ansal Yadav will be making his PBL debut.
Chan Peng Soon (Malaysia) – The Raptors’ doubles attack will be bolstered by the presence of World No 6 mixed doubles star, Chan Peng Soon, making his PBL debut.
Tak Ching Chang (Hong Kong) – Young doubles star Tak Ching Chang will also be making his debut.
Arun George (India) - A chance for a regular name on the Indian domestic circuit to make a mark.
Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei) - Having last played in the third edition, the Chinese Taipei ace returns to PBL as the joint-costliest player of the fifth edition. Words don’t do justice to her talent.
Medha Shashidharan (India) – With Tai being in the team, India’s 17-year-old rising shuttler, cannot ask for a better mentor
Eom Hye Won (Korea) – 28-year-old Korean veteran Eom Hye Won will be donning the Bengaluru jersey for the first time, having turned up for the Hyderabad Hunters in the last edition.
North Eastern Warriors
The Warriors are another team looking to clinch their maiden title.
Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Thailand) - Experienced Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk makes a return to the North Eastern Warriors and the former World No. 9 will be key to the side’s successes.
Lee Cheuk Yiu (Hong Kong) – The 23-year-old made a stunning run to the title at home at the Hong Kong Open last year, having accounted for the likes of Kidambi Srikanth, Viktor Axelsen, Shi Yuqi and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting on the way.
Kaushal Dharmamer (India) – Having won the Myanmar International Series and Maldives International Challenge this year, Kaushal Dharmamer will be looking to make a mark closer to home.
Lee Yong Dae (Korea) - After donning the Mumbai Rockets jersey for three consecutive seasons, Korea’s doubles superstar will appear for the North Eastern Warriors for the first time.
Krishna Prasad Garaga (India) - As the runner-up at the Yonex Dutch Junior Open 2018 and the winner of the Kharkiv International the same year, Krishna Prasad Garaga has shown promise.
Bodin Isara (Thailand) – Having participated in three of the past four seasons, Thailand’s Bodin Isara is a PBL veteran after his previous stints with the Awadhe Warriors and the Hyderabad Hunters.
Ashmita Chaliha (India) - Another young Indian shuttler to watch out for as Chaliha makes her PBL debut with her home franchise. The 20-year-old Guwahati girl has long been touted as the best of the next generation of Indian badminton and this is a big chance to prove just that.
Michelle Li (Canada) - Perched at a career-high ranking of N 8, Li will be an asset for the Guwahati-based team.
Kim Ha Na (Korea) - Former World No. 1 had the franchise shell out Rs 27 lakhs for her. The Korean, a 2014 Asiad silver medallist, has experience to bring to the table.
Rutaparna Panda (India) - 20-year-old Cuttack girl, Rutaparna Panda will be making a transition from the Chennai Smashers to the North Eastern Warriors this time.