PBL bandwagon makes final stop in City

PBL bandwagon makes final stop in City

Kidambi Srikanth

After slugging it out across four venues over the last two and half weeks, seven of the nine franchises of the Premier Badminton League will now be looking to up their ante as the tournament hits the home straight here from Monday.

Barring Delhi Dashers, rooted at the bottom of the table with just two points from five matches, and Ahmedabad Smash Masters, who wrapped up their group engagements on Sunday and lie beyond the top four, the remaining seven are in contention for the knockout semifinals.

Among the seven who will be fancying their chances is the home side Bengaluru Raptors. The Season 3 runners-up began the fourth edition on a losing note against Ahmedabad but they quickly put the false start behind, conjuring three wins on the trot to stay within the pack.

The key for Raptors, who will first play Mumbai Rockets on Tuesday and then Chennai Smashers in the final group campaign on Thursday, has been the performance of the two singles players -- Kidambi Srikanth and B Sai Praneeth. While Srikanth, the skipper of the side, has led from the front with four wins from as many games, Praneeth has raised his game. Praneeth lost his first match but after that has triumphed three straight times, including a win over HS Prannoy.

The men's doubles pairing of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan have been performing well too but their major weakness is the poor displays of the mixed doubles pairing of Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith.

Raptors coach Arvind Bhat conceded they have an issue with mixed doubles but is confident others will get the job done. "Our strength is the two men's singles and men's doubles. Our mixed doubles pair has not been delivering to their potential. But Mumbai have a problem with their women's singles. Having said that, we can't get complacent. We'll see how it goes. The main focus would be to enter the semifinals," said Bhat.

The Bengaluru leg at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium will kick off with Awadhe Warriors squaring off against Season 2 champions Chennai Smashers on Monday. The Smashers will be pinning their hopes on Parupalli Kashyap, Rajiv Ouseph, Sung Ji Hyun and the famed mixed doubles pairing of Chris Adcock and his wife Gabrielle.

Warriors, meanwhile, will be banking on World No 5 Mathias Christiansen and World No 10 Beiwen Zhang. A loud cheer though will be reserved for home girl Ashwini Ponnappa who will be featuring in the mixed doubles match.

The week also offers a chance for badminton buffs to see star shuttlers like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Carolina Marin in action for their respective franchises.

After the league phase, the semifinals will be held here on January 11 and 12, followed by the final on January 13.