PBL 2018: All you need to know about North Eastern Warriors
After a disappointing start to their journey at the Premier Badminton League last season, the North Eastern Warriors have received a shot in the arm with the addition of none other than Saina Nehwal to their squad. The Warriors left no stone unturned during the auction to acquire the services of the badminton superstar for a whopping Rs. 80 lakhs.
The move could certainly help them in the long run, for on paper they now seem to be one of the strongest teams.
This would be the first time in the four seasons of PBL that the World No. 9 will not feature in the Awadhe Warriors squad. With the vast experience she has in her sport, it would take very little time for her to adjust to the needs of a new team and a new environment.
This would be Saina's first outing since her marriage to 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap. Refreshed and rejuvenated after the break, she would be hungry and raring to go.
At 28, she is the oldest player in the women's singles top 10 rankings, which itself validates her passion and dedication to her sport. This year she won the Commonwealth Games gold and the Asian Games bronze before finishing the season as the runner-up at the Syed Modi International. She would be keen to replicate all those efforts at the PBL.
Under Nehwal's captaincy, veteran men's singles players Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk and Tian Houwei would look to flourish.
Tanongsak succumbed to injuries and poor form this year that resulted in the former World No. 9's ranking slipping below 50. The Thai could very well use this platform to catapult himself amongst the contenders for the big titles once again.
China's Tian Houwei does not play anymore on the BWF World Tour. However, being a former World No. 7, he surely knows when to elevate his game under pressure.
World No. 12 Liao Min Chun, men's doubles runner-up at the Chinese Taipei Open this year, is the highest-ranked doubles player in the squad. The advantage of having him is that he has dabbled in mixed doubles too and could use his expertise in that discipline as well.
The presence of Yoo Yeon Seong would also help the Warriors stay one step ahead of their opponents. The Korean has been a former World No. 1 and has even claimed the Dubai International Challenge title towards the end of the season.
With erstwhile World No. 3 Kim Ha Na in the team as well, it is not hard to guess that Seong and Na will be paired up for the mixed doubles match as they were regular partners earlier.
The North Eastern Warriors also have some exceptionally talented youngsters who have already made their mark in the international circuit. 2015 World Junior Championships silver medallist Siril Verma and former Indian national champion Rituparna Das are two of the rising stars to look out for.
Dhruv Kapila has proved himself to be one of the best doubles players from the upcoming generation. K Maneesha is another name that we shall be hearing more of in the near future.
Squad: Saina Nehwal (women's singles), Rituparna Das (women's singles), Tian Houwei (men's singles), Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (men's singles), Siril Verma (men's singles), Liao Min Chun (doubles), Yoo Yeon Seong (doubles), Kim Ha Na (doubles), K Maneesha (doubles), Dhruv Kapila (doubles)