Gopichand upbeat about PBL 2017

Professionals facing off against each other on the circuit, after finishing with the Premier Badminton League, do not lose the competitive edge, observed Pullela Gopichand, chief advisor to the six-team PBL 2017 event featuring six city-based franchises. "Nothing changes," he said. "There is a kind of friendly environment somewhere, there is also an exchange of views which helps. When they come again opposite each other on the court, it (competitiveness) remains the same."

Pullela Gopichand, the national coach and chief advisor for PBL 2017.   -  M. VEDHAN

Professionals facing off against each other on the circuit, after finishing with the Premier Badminton League, do not lose the competitive edge, observed Pullela Gopichand, chief advisor to the six-team PBL 2017 event featuring six city-based franchises. “Nothing changes,” he said. “There is a kind of friendly environment somewhere, there is also an exchange of views which helps. When they come again opposite each other on the court, it (competitiveness) remains the same.”

Gopichand, who is also the national coach, was speaking at the function where Mumbai Rockets players H. S. Prannoy and Ajay Jayaram unveiled the team jersey for PBL 2017. The second season, starting January 1 in Hyderabad, is different in the context of player rivalries, Gopichand pointed out. South Korean doubles legend Lee Yong Dae is one of two icons in the squad, Sung Hi Hyun is the other. The Rio Olympics women’s singles champion, Carolina Marin, is another big name in PBL 2017 and is spearheading the Hyderabad Hunters.

Talking about the difference between season one and season two, Gopichand explained: “Players are better, now we have some rivalries to make it exciting, like Carolina (Marin)-(P V) Sindhu, Saina (Nehwal)-Carolina (Marin) and Saina-Sindhu in the women's section. In the men's side, we have (H. S.) Prannoy-Jan (Jorgensen) and Jan-Viktor (Axelsen). In the doubles, (Vladimir) Ivanov-(Ivan) Sozonov are playing as a team (Delhi Acers). Saina will represent Awadh Warriors, Sindhu (Chennai Smashers) and Viktor (Bengaluru Blasters).

Badminton is one of numerous sports to launch its own professional league, attracting famous international names. Replying to a query about the message from the league boom, Gopichand said, "It shows that sport has come of age. Entertainment from sporting action is looked at seriously and careers in sport look possible." He is confident about the popularity being sustained. "Leagues the world over have taken over 50 and 100 years to get the kind of following they have now. I happy with the way badminton has progressed. PBL teams will have a lot more following in a short time."

The event provides young talents like Ruthvika Gadde and Sikki Reddy (both Bengaluru Blasters) and Siril Verma (Delhi Acers) the chance to watch big names prepare and compete. Siril and Jan Jorgensen are teammates in the Delhi franchise. Gopichand is positive about the effect of PBL 2017 on young Indians. “Fifteen days with Lee Yong Dae, Saina Nehwal, Carolina Marin or P. V. Sindhu is going to change the whole pespective for youngsters. They will really know what match preparations are and how to think different.”