Sindhu, Saina to don North East outfit for 4th season of PBL

Vastavam web: Carolina Marin and P V Sindhu were expectedly the most sought after Icon Players as they were picked by Pune 7 Aces and Hyderabad Hunters respectively in the Players’ Auction of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) here Monday. The fourth season of Vodafone PBL, organised by Sportzlive under the aegis of Badminton Association of India, will kick off in Mumbai on December 22 with the final being held in Bengaluru on January 13.

With no retention or Right to Match (RTM) card at disposal, the Players’ Auction was always going to be a keen contest for teams to get the combination right while looking for that one Icon Player who can inspire them to bigger glory. Given the strong pool of players in the auction, it was interesting to see the strategies the teams implemented to build their squad as three of these players could be retained for the next two seasons as well.

Marin and Sindhu were the obvious choice for almost all the teams. At least four teams raised the prize purse to INR 80 lakh, the maximum limit a team can bid for a player, before the players got assigned to the teams by a draw of lots. The Spaniard, who played a major role in helping Hyderabad Hunters win the title last year, would now shift base to Pune. The new outfit were clearly gunning for the three-time world champion and were understandably delighted when the announcer pulled out a chit of their name in a draw of lot. “With a champion in Marin, experienced Mathias Boe in the doubles category and young Lakshya Sen, am really optimistic how balanced the team has shaped up. Can’t wait for the season to start.”

While the Hunters lost their star performer from last year, they would be delighted to welcome home Rio Olympics silver medallist Sindhu. The 23-year-old, who was playing for Chennai Smashers for the last two seasons, will be playing for the home city for the first time and couldn’t hide her disappointment.Two-time CWG gold winner and India’s badminton queen Saina Nehwal will be seen plying her trade for the North-Eastern Warriors in the upcoming edition.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to get associated with the North Eastern Warriors. The fans over here are extremely passionate and I will try and give my best for them. I always had a special admiration for the north-east and with this alliance I wish to promote badminton in this region, so that we have more people inspired to take up the sport,” said the 2012 Olympic Medallist.

Chennai Smashers, who will have Korean Sung ji Hyun as their icon player, managed to retain the services of English mixed doubles combination of Chris and Gabby Adcock, paying them INR 54 lakh and INR 36 lakh respectively. Korea’s mixed doubles specialist Eom Hye Won also got a Rs 30 lakh jump from her base price of Rs 7 lakh as the Hyderabad Hunters secured her to build a strong doubles unit. But it was Delhi Dashers who broke the bank to get Sugiarto in the squad after they had already paid Rs 80 lakh for Prannoy. However, their strategy clearly was to invest in men’s singles and they made the most of it.