After a long and excruciating wait for the Indian fans, the fifth season of Premier Badminton League (PBL) is slated to kick off on January 20 with the Indian shuttlers set to compete against their global counterparts over the course of 21 days. With several hundred million eyeballs watching on them, it is time for yet another exciting dose of badminton showdown ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
The country saw the sporting fraternity unleash several domestic talents and younger crops of skillful shuttlers at an early age in the previous year. The youngsters are speeding towards glory and ensuring that the country’s future rests on safe hands. Taking 2019 to be a determining year, we can easily survey the spectrum of shuttlers who showcased some outstanding and rave performances and predict the course for an even bigger and better 2020 for them, through PBL.
While the talent and glimpses of brilliance are there for everyone to see, The Bridge tracks down top youngsters who look set to compete in the 21-day badminton extravaganza to secure the country’s entry into the superpower realm, by breaking the mould and sparking on the highest stage.
Also read: PBL 2020: Top contests to watch out for
#1 Ashmita Chaliha
For Ashmita Chaliha, the PBL is going to prove crucial for the long run of the season. Riding on the success of her double gold win at the South Asian Games, Chaliha has her eyes glued into the future and aspires to break into the Top 50. Roped in by her home team, the North Eastern Warriors, Ashmita was bid for INR 3 Lakhs. All of 20, Ashmita's breakthrough moment of her career came with the gold medal victory at the South Asian Games.
Pestered by an injury, the majority of Chaliha's 2019 had gone in nursing it but the sprightly girl from Northeast managed to bounce back in time. Powered on by her skills and talent at the sport, Chaliha made the gold victory seem so natural to her. Chaliha began to show signs of promise when she stirred us up to take notice of her wins at the Dubai International Challenge and the Tata Open International Challenge.
#2 Sankar Muthusamy
The 15-year-old Sankar Muthusamy from Chennai will be the youngest player in the upcoming edition of PBL. He took up badminton at a young age and was never short on the belief that one day he would play the sport professionally.
The young shuttler is keen to explore her talent further and rub shoulders with the best in the game. With Tommy Sugiarto, Lakshya Sen, Sumeeth B Reddy, Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Manu Attri in his team, he will have a lot to learn and can use those skills to cause trouble in her matches for her opponents.
#3 K. Sathish Kumar
Another youngster to watch out for this season is Tamil Nadu’s K. Sathish Kumar. With an experienced side in Chennai Superstarz by his side, the 19-year-old will have a lot to learn and can use those skills to cause trouble in his matches for opponents. Recently last year, he captained the boy’s singles side at the BWF World Junior Championship 2019 Kazan, Russia.
He has also amassed an impressive total of 925 points from the All India Junior Ranking tournaments held in Panchkula and Bangalore in the month of August last year. The mindful player and energy with the swift foot Sathish is a versatile young player to assess the court and hit the nail on the edge.
#4 Rutuparna Panda
Ranked 56 in women’s doubles, 20-year-old Rutuparna Panda is amongst the most sought-after youngest players in this season of PBL. She would undoubtedly turn out to be one of the major contributors to the game. With a ranking of 105 in mixed doubles, Panda has put an exceptional series of wins that will make her play this PBL. Bagged by North Eastern Warriors, Panda’s career breakthrough came in the year 2018 when she was selected to be part of the Indian team for the Asian Games.
She currently trains at the Hyderabad Academy. In July 2018, she won the women's doubles title at the All-India senior ranking badminton tournament in Bengaluru. She is a player to stand against the storm and put her name in the league of the brightest stars at the age of 20. With her in the team, North Eastern Warriors surely has a bright prospect to bank on.
#5 Gayatri Gopichand
Roped in by Chennai Superstarz, Gayatri will be seen contesting to be one of the best competitors of this league. Like Rutuparna, she was also selected to be part of the Indian team for the Asian Games in the year 2018. Daughter of former badminton player Pullela Gopichand, Gayatri was part of the national team that clinched the women's team gold medal at the 2019 South Asian Games, having won the silver in the singles event.
With the scenario of the Indian badminton legacy having a strong picture from past players like Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand who have with their talent and sportsmanship, one expects youngsters like Gayatri to continue the legacy and put India on the global badminton map.
#6 Lakshya Sen
There is much to marvel about the 18-year-old Lakshya Sen who has more or less, taken the badminton world by storm ever since his arrival. At a time when the top order of reliable Indian men's shuttlers is failing to restore faith, it is Lakshya who has been the saving grace.
A former Junior World No 1, Lakshya Sen, will be one to watch out for. This teen prodigy is a former Junior Number 1. The youngster has broken records and has worthwhile scores to boast of.
His contest against Lin Dan was a tracked performance for his upcoming win this PBL season. He would be playing alongside Carolina Marin, Vladimir Ivanov, Chirag Shetty, and other great players. Lakshya has been auctioned for 11 lakhs and given a chance this 17-year-old prodigy holds immense talent to run down some big names off the league because of the energy he holds.