Mumbai: Following a gap of over two years, the Indian Badminton League (IBL) re-christened as the Premier Badminton League (PBL), will kick-off with a glittering opening ceremony at the National Sports Club Of India on Saturday.
The first match will see a clash between Awadhe Warriors, spearheaded by 2012 Olympic bronze medallist and 2015 World Championship silver medallist Saina Nehwal, and Mumbai Rockets. Besides Mumbai, other five franchisee participating are Delhi Acers, Hyderabad Hunters, Bengaluru Top Guns, Chennai Smashers, and Lucknow-based Awadhe Warriors.
The revamped PBL is to experiment with a new concept - Trump match - that's expected to keep the interest till the end of a tie.
The League, revived after a gap of two years following a successful inaugural Indian Badminton League in 2013, has brought in the fresh idea in which each of the competing teams will nominate one match in each tie as their Trump Card.
A victory by the team that picked the particular game as its Trump will provide it with one extra point but a defeat will set it back by one point, and the intrigue generated by this new concept would keep the ties alive till the end, according to national coach Pullela Gopichand.
"It's a great addition to the league to ensure that the excitement remains till the end of the tie. Two teams can nominate the same match as Trump match. This ensures that the last two matches are also important in a tie," said Gopichand here in the run-up to the League opener.
"Even a 3-0 lead is not sufficient to win as you still can lose the tie. Spectators' interest will be kept alive. It needs to be seen how the players react to the extra pressure. Some play better under pressure and some others crack," he said.
World no. 2 Saina, who commanded USD 100,000 at the auction, would be leading Awadhe Warriors' challenge against Mumbai Rockets who appear strong in men's singles with two top men shuttlers of the country - H S Prannoy and R M V Gurusaidutt - leading their charge.
The host outfit has a strong men's doubles players in Denmark's Mathias Boe and Russia's Vladimir Ivanov.
World no. 20, Prannoy, has already sounded upbeat about his team's chances.
"Over the last two years I have been playing really well, along with Gurusaidutt. We both are in good form. We are a pretty balanced outfit. We have really good doubles players too," said the 23-year-old, who hails from Kerala, here ahead of the tournament opener.
Clouds of uncertainty were hovering over the event in October after partners Sporty Solutionz filed a petition against the Badminton Association of India (BAI) in the Delhi High Court vis-a-vis the rights of the tournament. But the Delhi High Court gave BAI clearance in November and withheld the injunction that Sporty Solutionz had requested.
This was the second such petition that has been filed by Sporty Solutionz after the BAI terminated the IBL contract on April 21. The first petition, a copy of which is in possession of IANS, was dismissed by the high court on May 29.
Finally in December, the Supreme Court allowed the BAI to hold the PBL from January 2 to 17.
Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez and music composer duo Salim-Sulaiman will perform at the opening ceremony.
Jacqueline will be seen dancing to the tunes of her famous dance numbers. This will be followed by Salim and Sulaiman performing the PBL anthem. Some more captivating performances will also follow.
Malaysian veteran Lee Chong Wei was bagged by Hyderabad Hunters while World championship double bronze medallist P.V. Sindhu was snapped up by Chennai Smashers. Rising India star Kidambi Srikanth went to Bengaluru Top Guns whereas 2014 Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap went to Hyderbad.
The winners will receive Rs.3 crore, the runners-up Rs.2 crore and the two semi-finalists will get Rs.75 lakh each.