Gopichand: ‘Double headers, fantasy league interesting additions to PBL’

Pullela Gopichand, a Governing Council member of PBL, said the team format will help benefit youngsters from India to learn tricks of the trade from the best in the world.

Pullela Gopichand believes the competiton at the Premier Badminton League will be a notch higher this year because of the addition of a new team.   -  S.R. Raghunathan

National coach Pullela Gopichand, who is also in the Governing Council of Premier Badminton League, believes emerging Indian talent will benefit playing alongside world stars in a team format. The fourth edition of the badminton league, featuring nine franchises, will get underway at Mumbai’s NSCI indoor stadium from Saturday, and Gopichand says shifting match situations due to the team format will help develop new qualities in participating players for international competition.

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Excerpts from a chat:

Professional sports leagues are supposed to be arming young Indians with the confidence to face world-class competition. Does this apply to PBL also?

PBL has been a guiding force in shaping and cultivating the Indian badminton scenario. Apart from providing youngsters with an opportunity to interact and play against the world’s greatest shuttlers, the League has been focussed in unearthing players and preparing them to prosper at the highest level.

Mumbai schedule
  • Dec 22 - Pune 7 Aces v Hyderabad Hunters)
  • Dec 23 - Mumbai Rockets v Delhi Dashers; Ahmedabad Smash Masters v North Eastern Warriors
  • Dec 24 - Pune 7 Aces v Awadhe Warriors

PBL follows the team format, each player doing his/her part for the team. Over the years, do you see Indians, young or established, becoming smarter players with every season?

Badminton is an individual sport, but playing a league is the most welcome change for all these players who spend time together as a family, sharing the dressing rooms with some of the finest shuttlers all across the globe. Playing in the league format, each player has a specific role to play. It is a great opportunity for the youngsters to spend time and train with such legends of the game that help learn a lot. For a junior player, such opportunities are surely something to look forward to.

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The league is played across the nation in different cities. Which city attracts the maximum number fans to the venue? Which team is most popular with the fans at stadiums?

Badminton is amongst the most played sport in India, across genders, and has gained immense popularity in the recent past. With the entry of another new team in the upcoming season (Pune7Aces), the level of competition will certainly go a notch higher. It would be a treat for the fans to watch their favourite stars in action. Hyderabad is the badminton “Mecca” but Bengaluru too has a huge following for the sport.

 PBL - Learning experience for youngsters, paycheck for the experienced

Innovations, if any, to happen in current & coming PBL seasons?

This time the PBL will be having double-headers for the first time. It’s an interesting addition to build up the excitement more. I am really looking forward to it. It is learnt that that PBL has introduced a fantasy league for the first time and am confident such fan engagement ideas will go a long way in promoting the sport.

Titans as teammates

Emerging local talent to benefit from PBL experience are many. Satwiksaireddy R and Anoushka Parikh have Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, World No. 6 (as per BWF rankings), as a teammate in Ahmedabad Smash Masters. Abhimanyu Mithun is in the same squad as World No. 8 Kidambi Srikanth at Bengaluru Raptors. Chirag Shetty will be training alongside Denmark’s men’s doubles ace Mathias Boe at Pune 7 and Lakshya Sen can learn from teammate Carolina Marin. Similarly, Meghana J is with Hyderabad Hunters, where Indian sensation P.V. Sindhu, spearheads the women’s singles challenge.