The North Eastern Warriors will set their sights on their first title while the Bengaluru Raptors will aim to become the first team to successfully defend their title in a tantalizing final clash at the Star Sports Premier Badminton League (PBL) at the GMC Balayogi SATS Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad on February 9.
Interestingly, the two teams had finished the league stage with 22 points each and with an identical 13 wins. While their league journey was very much similar, the Raptors and the Warriors had a very contrasting semi-final.
The North Eastern Warriors hardly did anything wrong against the Chennai Superstarz and thoroughly demolished them 3-(-1) in a brilliant display that saw Lee Cheuk Yiu, and the pairs of Lee Yong Dae-Kim Ha Na and Bodin Isara-Krishna Prasad Garaga delivering the wins for the team. The Raptors, on the other hand, had to dig deep to see off the spirited Pune 7 Aces in a 4-3 win. World No. 73 Kazumasa Sakai stunned the World Championships bronze medallist Sai Praneeth to put the defending champions in a spot of bother before World No. 2 Tai Tzu Ying and the mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon and Eom Hye Won led the team to victory along with a resilient performance from Brice Leverdez.
The Raptors would need the same amount of determination and courage and an all-round team effort to create history at the PBL if they want to thwart the challenge of the Warriors, who have the made the final for the very first time in three appearances at the league. In the only face-off between the two teams this season, the Guwahati-based franchise edged the Raptors 4-3 that perfectly portrayed the capabilities of all their team members.
World No. 18 Lee Cheuk Yiu beat Sai Praneeth while former World No. 9 Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk prevailed over Brice Leverdez. Lee Yong Dae and Bodin Isara rained down their smashes to take down Arun George and Rian Agung Saputro. Team Bengaluru did emerge victorious in women’s singles and mixed doubles with Tai Tzu Ying and Chan Peng Soon-Eom Hye Won fetching the wins for their team.
For Bengaluru to win, it is imperative that Sai Praneeth does a quick turnaround from his loss to Sakai last night and get back to winning ways. Having the unbeaten Tai in the squad puts them at an advantage over the Warriors’ World No. 10 Michelle Li, who has a 2-7 head-to-head record against the Chinese Taipei ace whereas Leverdez cannot afford to make any mistake.
That said, the Warriors have looked a more robust team overall. Confident, ambitious and with a well-rounded line-up in both singles and doubles, they will look to settle for nothing less than the trophy and it would need a herculean effort from last year’s champions to dim their spirit and get their second title in a row.