PBL franchise Bengaluru Top Guns launched

To be captained by World No. 9 K. Srikanth, the team, owned by a clutch of investors but fronted by Brandprix Consulting, will also feature the city’s very own doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa.

National coach P. Gopichand (right) with Kidambi Srikanth (centre) and Ashwini Ponnappa.   -  PTI

The city’s Premier Badminton League (PBL) franchise, Bengaluru Top Guns, was unveiled here on Tuesday. To be captained by World No. 9 K. Srikanth, the team, owned by a clutch of investors but fronted by Brandprix Consulting, will also feature the city’s very own doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa.

“I am extremely excited,” said Ashwini. Last time I was hoping to get into the Bengaluru team but didn’t. So I am very very happy. Normally our matches are centered either in Hyderabad, Delhi or Lucknow. I feel Bengaluru as a city has a lot of badminton players and enthusiasts and to be able to play in front of them is a big thing.”

“I’ll try to do my best,” said Srikanth. “As a player I really missed this league for the last two years. The first Indian Badminton League was where people recognised me. I love to be here.”

Top Guns will be coached by former International player Arvind Bhat and he said that it was proud moment for him.

“I just retired six months ago. I have played in the leagues in Germany and as a coach, for me, the main thing is to get the team spirit up. We have some very good players. It is also a 15-point format. So the team has to perform together.”

On rising Chinese player Suo Di, who will play the women’s singles, Arvind said she could give “anybody a run for their money.” The others in the team are singles players Sameer Verma and Anand Pawar, Malaysian doubles aces Hoon Thien How and Lim Khim Wah joined by B. Sumeeth Reddy and Scot Robert Blair.

Commenting on the tournament itself, National Coach P. Gopichand said, “It’s fantastic as a lot of players and fans have been waiting for the league to return. The Badminton Association of India has put in a lot of effort to make this happen.”

“We play so much of international badminton, our kids watch so many top players on television but they never get to watch them live. This event moves badminton out of just one or two centres hosting domestic events to other venues which can conduct events in the years to come.

“For me, the game is quick and the rules are exciting. There will be a buzz during matches and in team meetings. It’s exciting new badminton.”

Matches will be held here on January 13 and 14 including a semifinal.