The Premier Badminton League Season 5 concluded on 9 February 2020 with a lot of aplomb as the 21-day gala badminton league found a winner for the second time in a row in the Bengaluru Raptors. Throughout the course of the tournament which saw the participation of seven teams, who played across the cities of Chennai, Lucknow and finally Hyderabad, there were some real trailblazing acts recorded by the Indian players, in the mix. At a time when there isn't much to celebrate about Indian badminton owing to a string of losses suffered in the BWF tournaments, the PBL came as a much-needed breather and a perfect platform for the Indians to hone their skills for the season ahead. Serving its purpose to the fullest, the PBL inspired several players to step up and give it their all.
The league format, which is designed to present the Indian players- both the senior as well as the amateur, on a lucrative platform, saw stunning performances from a trusted lot of shuttlers like Chirag Shetty, N Sikki Reddy, B. Sai Praneeth, Lakshya Sen while players like, Rituparna Das, Krishna Garaga also achieved a lot in their appearances on the court. While Das, a part of the semi-finalists, Pune 7 Aces and a former National Champion, got her moment in the sun when she defeated World No. 16 Beiwen Zhang of the Awadhe Warriors, Garaga has been consistently supportive of Bodin Isara in the doubles' matches of the North Eastern Warriors. That said, let's take a look at the top Indian performers in the 5th Season of the Premier Badminton League who really stepped up for their team and produced an impressive performance and made the PBL Season 5 memorable for Indian fans:
Chirag Shetty - Pune 7 Aces
One half of India's star doubles pair, Chirag Shetty, was retained by the Pune 7 Aces and for good reason as the 22-year-old player became one of the most successful Indian shuttlers in this edition of the PBL. Pairing up with his idol and four-time World Championships gold medalist, Hendra Setiawan, PBL Season 5 was an exceptional outing for the Mumbai lad. An instrumental force was played by the duo of Shetty and the 2008 Olympics gold medalist player, Setiawan to ensure the Pune 7 Aces a safe path to the semi-finals of the league. Having played 7 matches, Chirag Shetty won on 6 occasions, which in itself is a rave feat. Along with his usual doubles partner, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, the pair can be pretty unstoppable and judging from this performance, a very likely medal hope for the country at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
N Sikki Reddy - Hyderabad Hunters
Belonging to the PV Sindhu led brigade, the Hyderabad Hunters had brought in doubles' specialist, N Sikki Reddy to fend their cause. Albeit their rather disappointing outing in the PBL Season 4, N Sikki Reddy emerged to be a powerhouse player, winning the Mixed Doubles matches whenever possible. Partnering with Russian player, Vladimir Ivanov, N Sikki Reddy won 5 out of the 6 matches she played in, which is a commendable feat. The 26-year-old from Telangana has been one of the most primary faces of success in the doubles' arena-both women's and mixed for India and she brought her ample expertise to the fore in her matches for the Hyderabad Hunters. Playing for her home team, Sikki Reddy was particularly impressive in matches against the Awadhe Warriors and the Pune 7 Aces.
Lakshya Sen - Chennai Superstarz
Playing consistently well throughout the season, the Chennai Superstarz were the real trailblazers of the tournament. Enjoying the top spot on the table for most of the tournament, the Superstarz was heavily aided by the prowess of the young Lakshya Sen, who is improving his game in leaps and bounds. Bagged for 36 lakhs by the Superstarz, Sen lived up to his worth as he was simply sensational, producing daring wins. Ever since 2019, Sen has been the talk of the badminton town as the 18-year-old hailing from Almora won a slew of tournaments and raced up the BWF rankings. The former junior World Number 1 player, won 4 matches out of the 5 he played and ensured he was a reliable choice by the Superstarz. Given his stunning performances at the PBL, Sen will be a force to watch out for this year.
Sai Praneeth - Bengaluru Raptors
Bronze medalist at the 2019 World Championships and team captain of the Bengaluru Raptors, B. Sai Praneeth played a good tournament while being a good leader for the Raptors as he paved the way to victory. Becoming the first team to defend a PBL title, B. Sai Praneeth was impressive in his outings. The World No. 11 player stepped up when necessary and won 5 matches out of the 8 he played. Having Tai Tzu Ying with the Raptors was an added advantage for the Raptors, but it also required the World Championships bronze medalist to shoulder responsibility for his team. Ahead of the Olympics, this was a decent and much-desired performance from Praneeth, as he became the winning captain of PBL Season 5.