Sachin Tendulkar picks up stake in PBL franchise

"Badminton is the epitome of fitness, flexibility, agility and skill and its adoption will contribute to India’s path to fitness. I’m excited to be part of Bengaluru Blasters team and wish them the very best for the upcoming season," Sachin Tendulkar said.

Sachin Tendulkar, Allu Arjun and Pullela Gopichand at the launch of Bengaluru Blasters.   -  PTI

In the previous edition of the Premier Badminton League, the city’s franchise – Bengaluru Top Guns – might have finished last, but that hasn’t stopped a consortium led by none other than Sachin Tendulkar from picking up the team, shuffling the pack and re-christening it to launch it on a much bigger scale. The only connecting link with last year will be Ashwini Ponnappa.

At the unveiling ceremony here on Thursday, the owners of Bengaluru Blasters – as it will be known from now on to mimic the Indian Super League outfit Kerala Blasters which Tendulkar owns with the same consortium – hoped for a turnaround in their fortunes too.

“Last year even though we came last, we missed the semifinals by only one point,” said Arvind Bhat, Blasters’ coach and himself a former international player. “If you look at the whole league, it was very close. We have learnt from our mistakes and tried to rectify it. I feel we are strong.”

Part of the confidence perhaps stems from the fact that it has the Rio Olympics men’s singles bronze medallist Viktor Axelsen in its ranks. In addition there is Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, world’s 12th ranked women’s player and Thai No. 2, Ruthivika Shivani Gadde, who Bhat described as the “third-best women’s singles player in the country”, the formidable Korean men’s doubles pairing of Yoo Yeon Seoung & Ko Sung Hyun and the women’s doubles duo Ashwini Ponnappa & Sikki Reddy.

Pullela Gopichand, who was present on the occasion alluded to such an array of talent when he said that the overall playing field – in spite of the absence of the legendary Lin Dan and Malaysian World No.1 Lee Chong Wei – was as good as it could get.

“We had 17 Olympic medallists in the auction pool,” he said. “There is Carolina Marin, the Rio gold medallist. It’s by far the best league in the world. We can look forward to big matches and big rivalries. There is the rivalry between [P.V] Sindhu and Carolina, Saina [Nehwal] and Carolina. You have Axelsen also.”

“In fact I wish we could have taken more players in each team. Considering the kind of players we have and the number of teams, we had too many [quality] players!"

Bengaluru Blasters team: Men's singles: Viktor Axelsen (Denmark), Sourabh Varma, Boonsak Ponsana (Thailand) Women's singles: Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (Thailand), G. Ruthvika; Men's doubles: Yoo Yeon Seoung (Korea), Ko Sung Hyun (Korea), Pranav Chopra; Women’s doubles: Ashwini Ponnappa, Sikki Reddy.