PBL 2016 kicks off tomorrow, to experiment with Trump match

Mumbai: The revamped Premier Badminton League (PBL), commencing here tomorrow with hosts Mumbai Rockets taking on the Saina Nehwal-spearheaded Awadhe Warriors, is to experiment with a new concept - Trump match - that's expected to keep the interest 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.

Saina Nehwal
Saina Nehwal. Pic/ AFP

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 national coach 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, 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 Warriors would look up in the main to Sai Praneeth, Sourabh Verma and Tanomgsak Saensomboonsuk of Thailand in men's singles, apart from the undoubted skills and fighting spirit of London Olympics bronze medallist and World Championship silver medallist Saina.

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.

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 whose shuttlers will not be playing here.

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. The tournament would be telecast 'live' by Star Sports
which has signed up as the title sponsor for the PBL, the channel announced today.

"Star Sports plans to introduce several innovative broadcast initiatives to the League in its efforts to forge a deeper engagement with fans and place them right in the thick
of this fast-paced sport. The broadcaster will project telemetry like players¿ heart rates live on screen," the channel said in a media statement.

"Tweaks to the rules, like unpredictable player draws, 'Trump Matches - which are worth bonus points - and the newly-introduced 'sudden death' rule will add a further dose of excitement to the tournament. "It will also hand out four awards after each day of play for the best rally, the fastest smash, the player of the day and the fan of the day as selected through contests run by franchises across locations," it added.

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