Armed with a new name and a new team composition, the Bengaluru Blasters are aiming to fly high at the upcoming 2017 Premier Badminton League (PBL). The franchise, who was previously known as the Bengaluru Topguns, had a forgettable 2016 season where they finished at the bottom of the table. But this time they have been bolstered by the addition of the World No. 4 and Rio Olympic bronze medallist Viktor Axelsen and are serious contenders for the PBL2 title.
India’s two promising youngsters – Sourabh Verma and Ruthvika Shivani Gadde – will look to bring their splendid form to the league and play a key role in bringing glory to the Blasters. Verma has had a successful three months, reaching four consecutive finals and winning his maiden Grand Prix title at the Chinese Taipei Masters.
Still only 19, young Ruthvika has very much cemented her place as the India No. 3 and her triumph at the Russian Open Grand Prix vindicates her talent further. Along with the World No. 12 Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, the women’s singles line-up looks competent enough to take on the best in the world.
Their doubles teams look equally impressive too. India’s Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy have formed a formidable mixed doubles duo of late and have been racking up wins with consummate ease on the circuit. Wins have come at the Brazil Grand Prix and the Russian Grand Prix which have triggered their rise into the top 20 in the rankings.
Reddy’s recent partnership with the experienced Ashwini Ponnappa too has started to bear fruit. The two made it to the final of the Welsh International in just their second outing together. Ponnappa has been retained from the previous season which is undoubtedly a wise decision by the Blasters.
Besides, the highly accomplished Ko Sung Hyun is currently ranked No. 1 in mixed doubles. Both him and the other Korean megastar – Yoo Yeon Seong – are former top-ranked men’s doubles players as well and that surely makes the team even more intimidating.
Bengaluru Blasters cannot afford to be overconfident: Sourabh Verma
The Bengaluru Blasters’ enviable squad makes them a favourite for the title but they also cannot afford to be complacent. In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, Blasters’ Sourabh Verma pointed that out and stressed about the importance of the Trump Match. Winning a Trump Match brings bonus points whereas a loss can affect a team’s chances as there will be negative points.
“It is a strong team no doubt but we should not feel overconfident about our chances,” Sourabh emphasised. “It is important to adapt to the format. We need to plan our strategies well for every team and use the Trump Match judiciously. The Trump plays a key role in winning like we saw the last season and a lot will depend on it to decide the outcome of a match,” he explained.
The 23-year-old,who is back in the top 50 after overcoming a series of injuries, also enthused about sharing the court with some of the world’s best-known players. To see the stars from close quarters and to observe their training regimen can do wonders for any of the rising shuttlers, the Blasters member believes.
“PBL is a good opportunity to share experience with higher-ranked players. The kind of attitude and approach that they have in training is something to learn from for every shuttler playing in the PBL.”
He also heaped praise on the league for helping to spread the game further in the country.
“The league is extremely essential for spreading the game further. The way the Indian players are consistently performing in every tournament at the moment and the PBL are two reasons why the sport has become so popular of late,” he pointed out.
Career highlights of Team Bengaluru Blasters members:
Viktor Axelsen (WR 4 in men’s singles, Denmark) – Bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, 2016 European Championships, 2014 Swiss Open
Boonsak Ponsana (WR 36 in men’s singles, Thailand) – 2007 and 2012 Singapore Open Superseries, 2008 India Open
Sourabh Verma (WR 43 in men’s singles, India) – 2016 Chinese Taipei Masters
Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (WR 12 in women’s singles, Thailand) – 2011 India Open, 2012 Vietnam Open
Ruthvika Shivani Gadde (WR 49 in women’s singles, India) –2016 South Asian Games gold, 2016 Russian Open
Pranaav Jerry Chopra (WR 18 in mixed doubles, India) – 2016 Brazil Open, 2016 Russian Open in mixed doubles
Sikki Reddy (WR 18 in mixed doubles, India) – 2016 Brazil Open, 2016 Russian Open in mixed doubles
Ashwini Ponnappa (WR 25 in women’s doubles, India) – 2016 South Asian Games gold, 2010 Commonwealth Games gold, 2014 Commonwealth Games silver, 2011 World Championships bronze medal, 2015 Canada Open in women’s doubles
Ko Sung Hyun (WR 1 in mixed doubles, Korea) – 2016 Korea Open, 2016 Singapore Open, 2016 German Open, 2015 Chinese Taipei Masters, 2015 Denmark Open, 2015 French Open, 2015 Korea Masters, 2014 Australian Open Superseries, 2010 World Championships bronze medal in mixed doubles
Yoo Yeon Seong (Was ranked No. 1 in men’s doubles this year, Korea) – 2016 and 2014 Indonesia Open, 2016 Korea Open, 2016 China Masters, 2015, 2013 and 2010 Hong Kong Open, 2015 Korea Open, 2015 French Open, 2014 and 2015 Australian Open, 2014 and 2015 Japan Open, 2014 and 2013 China Open, 2014 and 2011 Korea Grand Prix, 2012, 2013 and 2015 Denmark Open, 2013 Thailand Open, 2011 Chinese Taipei Open, 2011 Swiss GPG, 2010 Macau Open, 2010 Swiss Super Series in men’s doublesPublished 08 Dec 2016, 11:17 IST