PBL 2018: All you need to know about the North Eastern Warriors
With the Premier Badminton League (PBL) getting expanded in the third season, a couple of new teams have been added to the competition. One of the debutants is the North Eastern Warriors team, which will be the face of the talent-rich north-eastern terrains of the country.
The region, that is often overlooked, has produced some of the biggest sports stars of the country, which includes Mary Kom. Having their own team will surely inspire more youngsters from the North East to take up the racquet.
The Warriors might be making their first appearance but they have enough talent in their squad to make an impact. Coached by former Indian badminton star Nikhil Kanetkar, the outfit will be helmed by the World No. 11 Wang Tzu Wei of Chinese Taipei.
The 22-year-old has made the finals of the German Open, the Chinese Taipei Open and the New Zealand Open this year. That itself shows that he indeed possesses the game to unsettle the big names and will thus be a threat to the rival teams.
Former World No. 13 Ajay Jayaram will be giving him company in men’s singles. Having had a season ravaged by injuries, the 38th ranked Mumbai ace will be looking forward to get back into action. He will certainly be using this platform to get some much-needed match play just before the new season gets into full swing.
World No. 104 Pratul Joshi, who was a quarter-finalist at the 2017 Tata Open, is the third men’s singles player for the Warriors.
Peru International Challenge champion Michelle Li leads the women’s singles challenge. The World No. 21 also reached the finals at the US Open and the Dutch Open in the past season. Ruthvika Shivani Gadde is the second women’s singles player in the team. The 20-year-old recovered from injury to reign supreme at the Tata Open this month and will be hoping to bring that form, should she get a chance to play.
Korean pair is an asset in the doubles department
The men’s doubles discipline will be their strength. With the Koreans -- Shin Baek Cheol and Kim Gi Jung -- in their squad, they will certainly look to bank on their presence. The former is a retired doubles exponent, who reached a career-high 3rd in men’s doubles and 8th in mixed doubles.
He has been an Asian Games mixed doubles champion and a men’s doubles world champion. His vast experience will be the key to doubles success for the Warriors. Kim Gi Jung was ranked No. 2 as recently as September, 2016. He too has a World Championships bronze, an Asian Championships gold to show for on his illustrious resume.
After missing more than seven months on the Tour, he returned to action in end of November and immediately reached the final of the Korea Masters at home. He would be eager to carry on that form in the PBL.
India’s very own Chirag Shetty is also part of this team. He and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy made a flourishing Superseries debut this year and reached two quarter-finals at this level. The duo was rewarded with a place in the top 30 of the world rankings. Shetty has thus already proved that he is one the most promising doubles stars from India.
Prajakta Sawant is currently 43rd in mixed doubles and has won a couple of international tournaments in 2017. Sanyogita Ghorpade too is there, although her forte is women’s doubles.
Men’s singles - Wang Tzu Wei, Ajay Jayaram, Pratul Joshi
Women’s singles - Michelle Li, Ruthvika Shivani Gadde
Men’s doubles - Kim Gi Jung, Chirag Shetty
Mixed doubles - Shin Baek Cheol, Prajakta Sawant, Sanyogita Ghorpade
Coach: Nikhil Kanetkar