IBL: Pune Pishtons to lock horns with Delhi Smashers in inaugural tie

For Pune,World Championship doubles bronze medalist Ponappa is the marquee player

Written by Chinmay Brahme | Pune | Published: August 14, 2013 12:42 am

As the Pune Pistons get ready to battle the Delhi Smashers in the inaugural tie of the Indian Badminton League (IBL) in New Delhi on Wednesday,the owners of the Pune team are confident that their expensively assembled team will deliver the goods for them. The Pune Pistons has on its rolls World Championship doubles bronze medalist Ashwini Ponappa,as their marquee player. Along with Ponappa,the franchise also has current world number four Juliane Schenk of Germany,Denmark’s London Olympics bronze medalist Joachim Fischer-Nielsen and Vietnam’s rising star Nyugen tien Minh to ensure that the Pistons make a splash in the tournament.

Mohit Burman,one of the owners of the franchise,said the team’s goal was to ensure a berth in the play-offs. “We have assembled a balanced team and our player acquisition has been done in a manner to ensure that the team performs well as a unit. I am sure our players are going to deliver on court,” he said.

Commenting on the franchise’s strategy during the player auction,Burman said the main goal was to ensure that the most well-balanced team was assembled. “Our focus was always on maintaining the right balance. The fact that we ended up with some of the big stars is definitely a bonus. We were clear on the players we wanted. We indulged in hard bidding for some players,but we were conscious to avoid getting dragged into a bidding war,” he said.

The IBL has had its share of hiccups and has run into a number of problems,even before it got underway. Already,a number of questions have been raised on the sustainability of the league. Burman is confident that the league as a concept is a solid proposition. “All the stakeholders have worked hard for the event. No effort has been spared and it is important to understand that badminton enjoys across-the-board popularity. This league will definitely be sustainable and we are hopeful of attracting a good turnout for our matches,” he said.

Incidentally,the Pune Pistons has only one player from the city on their rolls. Revati Dewasthale,an upcoming player from the city,is the franchise’s junior pick. The youngster does not figure on the official player roster of the franchise,which is available on the IBL website. However,the Pistons have roped in the services of Athens 2004 Olympian and perhaps one of Pune’s most iconic badminton players as their coach. Nikhil Kanetkar,will be the only true-blue Puneite in the Pistons’ camp.

Burman said the franchise aimed to use the players at their disposal to create future badminton stars from the city. “Dewasthale,while she travels with the team,will have an opportunity to interact with stars like Ponappa and Schenk at a very informal level. I am sure it will help her,” he said. The franchise believes that the presence of international stars will also help raise the profile of the game in the city,allowing them to tap into a wider talent pool in future.

Pune has a long legacy in Indian badminton and it was precisely the lure of this legacy that led the Burman family to bid aggressively for the city’s franchise. Burman believes that Pune’s reputation,that of being the city of the youth and also one with a sizable number of badminton aficionados,will help the franchise. “We are very confident that come August 22,we will have a packed house. The city understands and loves badminton as a sport and with a number of international stars in action,we are expecting an overwhelming response,” he said.

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