An array of top stars, including Olympic and World Champion Carolina Marin of Spain, and India's Rio Olympics silver-medalist PV Sindhu are all set to slug it out in fourth season of the Premier Badminton League that begins in Mumbai on Saturday.
The other top international stars, who will be seen in action in the nine-team PBL featuring 90 players from 17 countries in all, which is set to conclude in Bengaluru on January 13, are Dane Viktor Axelsen, Lee Yong Dae of Korea and Indians K Srikanth, H S Prannoy and Saina Nehwal.
Pune 7 Aces, spearheaded by Marin, is the new franchise team in the league that will see eight Olympic medalists in action in five cities, including Pune and Ahmedabad, which will be hosting matches for the first time.
The nine teams Delhi Dashers, Ahmedabad Smash Masters, Awadhe Warriors, Bengaluru Raptors, Mumbai Rockets, Hyderabad Hunters, Chennai Smashes, North Eastern Warriors and debutantes Pune 7 Aces would be slugging it out for a total prize fund of Rs 6 crore.The winners will take home Rs 3 crore, the runners-up Rs 1.5 crore and the 3rd and 4th pacers Rs 75 lakh each.
The inaugural round is being held here at the NSCI indoor stadium in Worli up to December 24 while the semi-finals and final would be held in Bengaluru.
"I will be playing for Hyderabad Hunters in PBL4 and I hope I do well as well as the team," said Sindhu, who bagged her first major women's singles title in the year-ending BWF World Tour finals earlier this month, on Friday.
"PBL having the top players in all seasons is not a joke. It's very good for Indian badminton. This time I am with the (North Eastern) Warriors. I hope we go all out (for the title)," said Saina at the pre-season media conference here.
The bronze medal winner in the 2012 London Olympics will be playing her first tournament after her marriage with fellow-shuttler and London Games men's singles quarter finalist, Parupalli Kashyap, who will turn out for Chennai Smashers.
"I am looking forward to the PBL. I am with a new team - Pune. I will try my best," said Pune captain Marin.
Marin's clash with Sindhu here would set the tone for the league. The league debutantes have a strong team with Marin, Asian junior boys' champion Lakshya Sen, doubles specialist Mathias Boe, Ajay Jayaram and Prajakta Sawant, among others.
The league will also have a strong Chinese flavour too as three players from China along with a host of Indian juniors will be playing in the PBL for the first time.
Hyderabad Hunters: P V Sindhu (Capt), Lee Hyun Il, Rahul Yadav Chittaboina, Mark Caljouw, Sai Uttejitha Rao, Kim Sa Rang, Arun George, Bodin Issara, Eom Hey Won and Meghana Jakkampudi.
Mumbai Rockets: Lee Yong Dae (Capt.), Sameer Verma, Andres Antonsen, Pratul Joshi, Shriyanshi Pardeshi, Anura Prabhudesai, Manu Attri, Lee Yong Dae, Kim Gi Jung, Pia Zebadiah and Kuhoo Garg.
North Eastern Warriors: Saina Nehwal (Capt.), Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, Tian Houwei, AS Siril Verma,Rituparna Das, Yoo Yeon Seong, Liao Min Chun, Dhruv Kapila, Kim Ha Na and Kukkapalli Maneesha.
Pune 7 Aces: Carolina Marin (Capt.), Brice Leverdoez, Lakshya Sen, Sony Dwi Kuncoro, Ajay Jayaram, Line Kjaersfeldt, Vladimir Ivanov, Mathias Boe, Chirag Shetty and Prajakta Sawant.
Chennai Smashers: Sung Ji Hyun (Capt.), P Kashyap, Chong Wei Feng, Rajiv Ouseph, Saili Rane, Or Chin Chung, Chris Adcock, B Sumeeth Reddy, Gabrielle Adcock, and Rutaparna Panda.
Ahmedabad Smash Masters: Viktor Axelsen (Capt.), Sourabh Verma, Daren Liew, Kirsty Gilmour, Vaishnavi Bhale, Lee Chun Hei Reginald, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, K Nandagopal , Sikki Reddy and Anoushka Parikh.
Awadhe Warriors: Son Wan Ho (Capt.), Guru Sai Dutt, Lee Dong Keun, Rasika Raje, Beiwen Zhang, Le Yang, M R Arjun, Mathias Christiansen, Ashwini Ponnappa and Sanyogita Ghorpade.
Bengaluru Raptors: K Srikanth (Capt), B Sai Praneeth, Mithun Manjunath, Nygun Tein Minh, Vu Thi Trang, Hendra Setiawan, Marcus Ellis, Mohammad Ahsan, Lauren Smith, and Sanjana Santosh.
Delhi Dashers: H S Prannoy (Capt.), Chirag Sen, Tommy Sugiarto, Evgeniya Kosetskaya, Chai Biao, Maneepong Jongjit, Wang Sijie, Vighnesh Devlekar, Lee Chia Hsin and V Harika