Following P.V. Sindhu’s silver-winning feat at the Olympics, badminton is getting a touch of the razzmatazz. The South Indian film industry is hosting the Celebrity Badminton League (CBL), a three-week long maiden sporting event, which commences today, 18 September, in Chennai. The event, which is expected to fetch around Rs 15 crore as revenue in its first edition, will have its finals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 12 November. Four teams—Chennai Rockers (of the Kollywood or Tamil film industry), Tollywood Thunders (Telugu), Kerala Royals (Malayalam) and Karnataka Alps (Kannada film industry)—are participating in the first edition. CBL CEO Hemachandra, who spoke to the media including this newspaper in Hyderabad, said that there were plans to expand the CBL to Bollywood and other film industries in the country in the future.

When Chennai based entrepreneur Hemachandra and his colleagues thought of launching a first ever film personalities’ badminton league about eight months ago, they did not expect easy funding. But all that changed after Sindhu’s stellar show at the Rio Olympics last month. The CBL is now foreseeing a bright future in the coming editions.

CBL has been promoted by JP Academy, a sports investment firm based in Chennai, and has raked in an initial investment of around Rs 3.3 crore in May. The league has secured pledges to the tune of around Rs 20 crore in the four franchises. The franchises will have to bear the costs of celebrity fees and event expenses.

“We would have been left with nil or meagre balance, but after the spectacular victory of Sindhu, there has been considerable interest to this indoor game from both film personalities and the general public,” said Hemachandra. He did not rule out the possibility of Sindhu cheering the players at one of the matches, depending on her availability in the country.

Each of the four franchises will have two teams—men’s and women’s—and they will play three major categories, which are men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. CBL will try to offer a fare of “sportainment” to the audience. The response from the film stars was overwhelming and the final teams were apparently selected based on talent.

Following are the team compositions of the franchises

Chennai Rockers: The captain is Arya, brand ambassador is Madhavan, team motivator is Amla Paul and the players (men) are Bharat, Vaibhav, Amitesh, Prasanna, Munna Simons, Santanu and Abinay Vaddi. The women players are Ineya, Gayatri, Rupa Manjari and Suja. C.R. Venkatesh is the team owner.

Kerala Royals: The captain is Jayaram, the brand ambassador and team motivator is Mamta Mohandas and the players (men) are Niranjan, Baiju, Arjun Nandakumar, Saiju Kurup, George, Sekhar Menon, Rajiv Pillai, Sreenath Bhasi and Rony David. The women players are Mamta Mohandas, Rajini Haridas, Parvati Nambiar and Rosen Jolly. The team is owned by Ranjith Karunakaran.

Karnataka Alps: The captain is Yogesh, the brand ambassador is Aindreta, and the players (men) are Ranjith Lokesh, Prajwal Devaraj, Ravi Chetan, Jagadish C., Arjun U.A. and Karthik C.S. The women players are Kavitha Lankesh, Krishi Tapanda, Disha Pooviah and Abankita Deka. The team is co-owned by actress Sanghvi and entrepreneur Justin.

Tollywood Thunders: The captain is Sudheer Babu, the brand ambassador is Naga Chaitanya, the team motivators are Manchu Lakshmi Prasanna and Charmee. The players (men) are Nikhil, Kaushal Manda, Anil, Krishna Chaitanya, Satyna Dev and Naveen Kumar. The women players are Tejaswi Madivada, Sanjana Galrani, Apoorva Srinivasan and Seerat Kapoor. The team is co-owned by Nandini Vijay, Sagar Pentela and Dheeraj.

The first league match will be played in Kochi on 24 September, followed by matches in Bangalore on 8 October and Hyderabad on 22 October. The finals will be held along with a gala entertainment show in Kuala Lumpur on 22 November.

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