Strong in men’s and women’s singles, Nikhil Kanetkar the coach will have to put extra impetus on his men’s doubles combinations to get the desired results, writes Vishal Kungwani.

The Balewadi stadium, after being the venue for so many big sporting events in the recent times, will host the Pune Pistons in the inaugural season of the IBL. The team bought by the Burman family is a well-balanced one but their main strength lies in men’s and women’s singles. The team consisting of Indian star shuttler Ashwini Ponnappa as the Icon player also have world number 4 women’s player Juliane Schenk , men’s singles star Tien Minh Nguyen of Vietnam, experienced doubles players Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Wee Kiong Tan. They also have a host of talented Indian players like Arun Vishnu, Anup Sridhar, Saurabh Verma and the doubles combination of Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar.

Here’s how the Pune Pistons line-up stands:

Strong in both men’s and women’s singles as well as mixed doubles

Tien Minh Nguyen of Vietnam, who is currently the World No. 7 and has been in top form over the last few months, will lead the men’s singles contingent. Having recently won the US Open Grand Prix Gold tournament, he will surely be a big threat for all the other teams. India’s rising star Saurabh Verma is another strong singles player in the Pune Pistons team.

In the women’s singles department, Pune’s World No. 4 player Juliane Schenk of Germany is the second highest ranked female player playing in the league. The German player, who is in the prime of her career, will likely be the biggest threat to Indian badminton queen and Olympic bronze medalist Saina Nehwal (the highest-ranked player in the league).

The Pistons have put plenty of thought into their doubles combinations as well, picking some experienced players like Joachim Fischer Nielsen, Wee Kiong Tan, Arun Vishnu and Ashwini Ponappa. Danish shuttler Joachim, who is currently the World No. 4 in mixed doubles with Christinna Pedersen, will partner World Championships bronze medalist Ashwini Ponappa in the league, and it will be quite interesting to watch the Indo-Danish combination on the court.

Have to play above potential in the men’s doubles

Although they are a decently well-balanced team, the Pune Pistons are a bit deficient in the men’s doubles department. Apart from Wee Kiong Tan, who is currently the World No. 10 in men’s doubles, there are no other experienced men’s doubles players in the team. Rupesh Kumar, Sanave Thomas and Arun Vishnu are a little less experienced when it comes to the world of international badminton, and that might affect Pune team a bit in the long run.

Conclusion :

Good results in the men’s and women’s singles can be expected from the team although the second men’s singles match could be of concern. The coach will have to get his men’s doubles combination right and hope that the Indo-Danish mixed doubles pair performs at their best. Very strong contender overall. They should comfortably make the semi finals.


“The sporting culture of the people of Maharashtra will be exhibited in full flow as the Pune Pistons take centre stage at the Balewadi”

Owners: Burman Family, MD – Mohit Burman

About Dabur Group: The Dabur Group, owned by the Burman family, are no strangers to sporting leagues. The group, who were the co-owners of Indian Premier League franchise Kings XI Punjab in 2008, also owned the Mumbai franchise named Mumbai Magicians in the inaugural Hockey India League which was played last year. “The concept and design of this league is really interesting and we are thrilled to be a part of it,” Dabur Group director Mohit Burman said.

Chief Coach: Nikhil Kanetkar, Former Olympian and India No.1

ICON Player: Ashwini Ponnappa, 23, Gold Medal winner at the Commonwealth games women’s doubles, Bronze at the BWF world championships


  Player Event/Specialists
1 Ashwini Ponnappa (India) XD
2 Saurabh Verma (India) MS
3 Anup Sridhar (India) MS
4 Juliane Schenk (Germany) MS
5 Joachim Fischer (Denmark) XD
6 Tien Minh Nguyen (Vietnam) MS
7 Sanave Thomas (India) MD
8 Arun Vishnu (India) MD
9 Wee Kiong Tan (Malaysia) MD
10 Rupesh Kumar (India) MD
11 Revathi Devasthale) WS

Host Stadium: Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Badminton Hall, Balewadi

Schedule for Pune Pistons:
  • vs Krrish Delhi Smashers – August 14
  • vs Mumbai Masters – August 17
  • vs Hyderabad Hotshots – August 19
  • vs Banga Beats – August 23
  • vs Awadhe Warriors – August 26