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Brand PBL strong enough to sustain absence of Saina, Srikanth: Organisers

Tanishq Sharma




New Delhi: Premier Badminton League (PBL) Season V will not be featuring the likes of Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth but the organisers believe that the tournament’s brand value is strong enough to sustain the withdrawal of these star players.

Star players Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth, who played for North Eastern Warriors and Bengaluru Raptors respectively in last season, will not feature in the tournament, preferring to focus on international events.

The fifth edition of PBL is scheduled to be held from January 20 to February 9. While asking over the withdrawal of the heavyweights, PBL organisers said that players like PV Sindhu, Tai Tzu Ying are there to sustain the absence of Saina and Srikanth.

World champion Sindhu and World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying were bought for Rs 77 lakh each by Hyderabad Hunters and Bengaluru Raptors respectively. Seven teams will participate in the tournament.

“PBL is the biggest badminton tournament in the country, so it is the only time when the Indian badminton fans get a chance to watch these big players. While Saina and Srikanth are missing, players like Sindhu, Tai Tzu, Satvik are there,” said Prasad Mangipudi, co-founder Sportzlive.

He added, “Even Indian players play outside the country like in Korea, Japan, Denmark, and England. How often people in Bangalore, Lucknow get a chance to watch them? PBL is the place where they can watch these players battling out against each other.”

The tournament will not only miss some of its biggest stars, but also two teams – Delhi Dashers and Ahmedabad Smash Masters. The reasons which led to their no-show were different from each other.

Mangipudi said, “Indian sports ecosystem is still evolving like an actual business model. Delhi Dashers, owned by Dalmia, after running for two years the new management felt they don’t fit into our core activities. Ahmedabad Smash Masters’ case was different, they defaulted on their contract obligation which led to their termination.

“We did look to replace them but we’re not in a rush. We are in talks with a couple of big names and will soon get them in our radius. We are looking for team owners who are passionate and got a sustainable construction themselves in a long run,” he added.

PBL is the platform for aspiring Indian talents to showcase their skills. “When these players participate in tournaments outside the country, unless they win each round they can’t progress. But here in PBL, every player gets a chance to play at least five matches,” Mangipudi  added.

With an aim to create a pan-India wide talent pool, PBL organisers expect team owners to create a badminton ecosystem by having more badminton academies.

Mangipudi said, “We expect team owners to own the badminton ecosystem in their cities by having academies. Already three cities, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore own badminton academies.

“Through these academies they can start searching talents by conducting inter-school, inter-college or inter-corporate tournaments. This will also add to their revenues,” he concluded.

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