Rivals on court, pals off it: Lakshya Sen and Priyanshu Rajawat

Lakshya Sen and Priyanshu Rajawat entertained the Chennai crowd with a thrilling performance in the trump match of the PBL opener.

Lakshya Sen (Left) and Priyanshu Rajawat (Right) were long-time roommates during international tours.   -  Santadeep Dey

Tense rallies, diabolical smashes and passionate rounds of celebrations followed by a thrilling climax was the highlight of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) singles tie between Chennai Superstarz’s Lakshya Sen and Priyanshu Rajawat of Hyderabad Hunters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Monday. What was more eye-catching was the camaraderie the two shuttlers shared off the court.

Roommates during the 2018 BWF World Junior Championship, Lakshya and Priyanshu talked about how players are made to embrace the fact that they are just strict professionals on the court, no matter how good a relationship they share away from the media spotlight. “We (pointing towards Priyanshu) have travelled together often, not just on tours, but often just as friends. We share a great bonding. There is no banter usually, but on court it is a lot different. There you mean business and all of us are professionals, so it is meant to be that way,” Lakshya says. A hi-five follows.

On the opening night of the Chennai leg of the PBL, the audience were treated to some lip-smacking show on the court, as World No 30 Lakshya took on the 17-year-old Priyanshu, ranked 283 in the World Rankings, in what was Chennai’s trump match. The enthralling contest lasted 58 minutes as both Lakshya and Priyanshu took a game each. Both the shuttlers tied at 14-14 in the decider before Lakshya pocketed the final point. On whether the thought of defeat scared him a bit, he tells Sportstar, “Yeah, I was (scared), cause there was an added pressure of it being a trump match. It was an important match but yeah, I didn’t throw it away.”

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For Priyanshu, however, it was just another game. “Was scared a bit initially, but not that scared. Performing in front of a crowd like this was a bit scary but not enough to stop me from playing. You cannot always win in a game. You have to lose at times, as well. One shouldn't break his or her head with the fact. Next time let's see,”  says Priyanshu as he flashes a grin at Lakshya.

 

PBL exposure helps in the long run

Lakshya believed leagues like the PBL helps a sport scale new heights and additionally helps a player enhance his skills in the process. “We get to play, train and interact with foreign players. Even while we are chilling out in a group, it helps a lot. Like last year, I shared the dugout with (Carolina) Marin and Mathias Boe, so there were a lot of things which they said after matches which helped in the long run. Also, playing in front of a crowd like this, getting exposed to pressure situations like the one today, helps.”

Priyanshu's return from injury

Priyanshu, who returned to the court after recovering from a career-threatening injury, was handed a PBL debut, replacing the injured Malaysian Daren Liew. The 2019 Bahrain International champion thanked his physio and coaches for helping him out during the toughest time of his nascent career. “It happened a year ago. The coaches had my back and my physiotherapists helped too. Before long I forgot about my injury. It was like, it wasn't even there... never existed.”

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