Actress Taapsee Pannu became the latest from the tinsel town to invest in a sports team after the Bollywood star ventured into the Premier Badminton League (PBL) by co-owning the Pune franchise — Pune 7 Aces.
With World No. 1 Carolina Marin and teen-sensation Lakshya Sen in its ranks, Taapsee is happy with the way the team is formed. “Although badminton is an individual sport, it is a team sport in PBL. A lot depends on the strategies, line-ups, trump matches and how well you mix your players. You need to choose your line-up very carefully. All the players we signed were in our first, second or third choice. We are raring to go,” Taapsee said.
Taapsee said Pune 7 Aces will be coached by Indian Anand Pawar and Denmark's Joachim Persson.
Badminton – the family sport
According to Taapsee, owning a team was just a matter of time. “I have always been interested in sports. I played squash in my formative years. And sport now, for me, is a weekend relaxation, to unwind. I follow matches on TV and probably sport is the what I have seen maximum on TV.
"Badminton should ideally be called the 'family sport of India'. Many of us must have played badminton in our life at some point in time. We must have played in school, with friends on the streets, during picnics. What more, even I play badminton to relax during movie shootings. It calms me down to a great extent and probably that is why I have chosen to jump into the badminton bandwagon,” she said.
“I always wanted to own a new team rather than acquiring an existing team. This way the fan base, the reach etc would be new. And, it also gives me an opportunity to build the team from scratch.
How the deal gained shape
"I had started conversations with the badminton association officials, the organisers of the league about a year back. I have been doing my groundwork and homework on the same. My talent management company and I have plans in place and we need to execute them. I just want to jump into it and then learn on my way," she reasoned.
The 31-year-old said she was stumped to see how the popularity charts haven't been growing for the league. "In my opinion, after cricket, badminton is the most popular sport. As players, P.V. Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth have a major fan following and it kind of surprises me to see the sport lag in terms of popularity of the league. The Indian Premier League is miles ahead in terms of popularity.
"We have some of the top players in the world playing. It isn't like where older players come and play. The top in the business currently plies their trade here. It is strange that the sport doesn't get the same attention. It is a fast-paced sport, the adrenalin rush is immense. Let me get into it to figure out," she explained.
Talking about the PBL auctions, Taapsee said there were more than one emotions attached to it. "Oh, it was a stressful day. We had just announced the franchise and a lot of messages were pouring in. Many of the players, who I am friends with, sent me congratulatory messages and were surprised at the decision.
“As for the auctions, we had multiple strategies in place. We had a lot of players in mind. Auctions are not just about your team alone, it is about how to manage and pick other team's think-tank too. It was an experience unparalleled. It was an action-packed and a tiring day, but in the end, I am happy that we could smile and say we got the players we wanted," she said.
Being good friends with Mathias Boe was an added advantage for Taapsee as she got a sneak peek and some first-hand information on the sport and the league. "Yes, Mathias (Boe) did give me a lot of suggestions and explained a lot of things. He has been in the PBL circuit for years now and he knows how it works. He was also guiding me about different players and their form and their capabilities as ranking always doesn't do justice to talent. They were important tips from him," she said.
Taapsee said she is proud to have Carolina Marin in her team. "I am a huge fan of Marin and many say that we are doppelgangers (laughs). There is a certain x-factor in her that sets her apart. She is expressive and is a treat to watch on the court. I love that fact about her that she is a live wire and is an emotional player. I am proud to have her in my team," she concluded.
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