PBL 2018: All you need to know about the Ahmedabad Smash Masters
The Ahmedabad Smash Masters might be making their first appearance at the Premier Badminton League (PBL) this season, but their team composition tells that they know what it takes to win the big prize. The state of Gujarat did not have a representative in the past two editions of this pan-Indian league. Now with a team, that looks pretty compact and well-balanced, they just might make a debut to remember.
India’s HS Prannoy and the women’s singles World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying are certainly the two names that stand out and will play a key role in Ahmedabad’s PBL campaign.
The Smash Masters owners knew what they were doing when they shelled out a whopping Rs. 62 lakhs for Prannoy, making him PBL3’s costliest buy. For, when Prannoy gets going, he does not fear anyone.
The World No. 10 might still be lacking a Superseries title, but there’s no doubt about his immense talent. Endowed with a smashing attacking game, the Pullela Gopichand protégé made everyone take note when he remained unbeaten in the last edition of the PBL. On the BWF Tour, he registered wins over Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long on his way to his first Superseries semi-final at the Indonesia Open.
He repeated that feat at the French Open before succumbing to the eventual champion, Srikanth Kidambi. He turned the tables at the Senior National Championships where he beat Srikanth in the final.
If Prannoy is feeling healthy and is fully focussed, he can be a threat to just about anyone on the opposite side of the net.
World No. 49 Sourabh Verma is the second men’s singles player for the Smash Masters. A stubborn ankle injury cost him a couple of months towards the end of the season. The 2016 Chinese Taipei Masters champion, who has a career high ranking of 30th, is itching to get some much needed match play.
All eyes on World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying
Ahmedabad’s women’s singles department looks super strong with the inclusion of the indomitable Tai Tzu Ying. The Chinese Taipei ace, who will be making her PBL debut, has won a staggering five Superseries titles in 2017, besides the Badminton Asia Championships.
Her deceptive strokes are such a treat to watch and she is definitely expected to light up the league. At the same time, the wily shuttler will be wreaking havoc on her rivals.
It will be a priceless opportunity for the Indian players and especially the youngsters, which include Siril Verma and Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli, to learn from the world’s best shuttler.
In men’s doubles, they have got the 40th ranked Hong Kong pair of Law Cheuk Him and Lee Chun Hei Reginald. They have not had a very bright 2017 season by any means, but their familiarity with each other might get them a couple of wins in a league where there will be a few scratch pairs.
Their mixed doubles section looks more formidable, thanks to the presence of Kamilla Rytter Juhl, one of the all-time great names in doubles. The Danish southpaw is currently third in women’s doubles, but was the numero uno player in the mixed doubles discipline six years ago. Besides that, her resume also boasts of a World Championships gold medal in the same category.
The Smash Masters also have the women’s doubles World No. 12 Stefani Stoeva, who is one half of the Stoeva pair from Bulgaria. Stefani and her sister, Gabriela teamed up to make it to the final of the European Championships and the Swiss Open.
Even though, she does not play mixed doubles on a regular basis, she will bring her women’s doubles experience into play.
Srikanth Kidambi’s elder brother, K Nandagopal is also a part of the team. The Kharkiv International mixed doubles winner might come in handy.
Men's singles - HS Prannoy, Sourabh Verma, Siril Verma
Women's singles - Tai Tzu Ying, Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli
Men's doubles - Law Cheuk Him, Lee Chun Hei Reginald
Mixed doubles - K Nandagopal, Kamilla Rytter Juhl, Stefani Stoeva
Coach: Madhumita Bisht