PBL 2018: All you need to know about Bengaluru Raptors
The narrow 3-4 defeat to Hyderabad Hunters in last season’s Premier Badminton League final certainly hurt the Bengaluru Raptors and they will be leaving no stone unturned to cross the final hurdle this time. With a new name and a new-look squad, they will be going out all guns blazing under the leadership of Kidambi Srikanth.
The India No. 1 failed to replicate the heroics of his 2017 season where he won four Superseries titles. But he did show a lot of resurgence post-Asian Games this year and reached five quarter-finals and one semi-final.
His decision to pull out of the Syed Modi International at the end of a hectic season was a wise one as that gave him a much-needed rest to recharge his batteries ahead of the PBL. The Pullela Gopichand protégé will thus surely be raring to go and guide the Raptors to their first ever title triumph at this pan-Indian league.
Srikanth will have his fellow academy mate Sai Praneeth as the No. 2 player in his team. The former Singapore Open champion did not have the best of seasons in 2018 and should be eager to use the PBL platform to announce his return to form.
Vietnam’s World No. 58 Tien Minh Nguyen, who is the third men’s singles expert in the squad, made it to the final of the Iran Fajr International, besides a couple of semi-final finishes this season. He should come in handy when the other two are rested.
The doubles department looks extremely robust and competent. The Raptors are one of the few teams to have established doubles teams among their ranks.
Two-time former world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, currently ranked No. 9, will be spearheading the men’s doubles challenge. After conquering the Singapore Open and the Malaysia International, the renowned Indonesian pair finished their 2018 season with an appearance at the prestigious BWF World Tour Finals and would hope to pick up and continue from there at the PBL.
In mixed doubles, the Raptors have the 14th ranked English combine of Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith. The Commonwealth Games silver medallists had a fantastic year, winning as many as four titles at the Canada Open, Dutch Open, SaarLorLux Open, and the Scottish Open.
With such mind-boggling consistency, they would be aiming to do their bit to help bring home the trophy for the Raptors.
It’s only in the women’s singles category that the Bengaluru franchise looks fragile. Vietnam’s Thi Trang Vu, whose career-high ranking has so far been 34th, has been saddled with the responsibility. In a league that has the likes of Carolina Marin, PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal among others, it might be an uphill task for Trang Vu to fetch a win for the Raptors.
Squad: Kidambi Srikanth (men’s singles), B Sai Praneeth (men’s singles), Mithun Manjunath (men’s singles), Tien Minh Nguyen (men’s singles), Thi Trang Vu (women’s singles), Mohammad Ahsan (doubles), Hendra Setiawan (doubles), Lauren Smith (doubles), Marcus Ellis (doubles), Sanjana Santosh (doubles)