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Heroes - Champions of SBL 2015

Tuesday 1 December, 2015
By T.J Udayaraj
"SBL is fantabulous"..
"It was a great day"...
"It was a thoroughly enjoyable get together for SAS"...
"Another fantastic SBL"...
"Most memorable day and have to wait till next year for this again!"...

Those were some of the reactions after the conclusion of the most prominent event for SAS. This year SBL had 48 players (32 men and 16 women) participating which made it the biggest tournament conducted by SAS. And with the players' family accompanying them, the sports room wore a festive look with kids and family enjoying the day along with some exciting and thrilling matches to boot. 

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In the final, Heroes beat Cheetahs to become the SBL 2015 Champions .. 

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Here is a rundown about the 8 teams participated in this year's SBL

Panthers - Rajeev Nair (C)
Panthers' women's team comprising the phenomenal Nigi and the debutant Nimitha breezed through all their matches with ease. Nigi, an avid aerobic athlete, has raised her fitness levels to such an extent that, she was easily covering the whole court and controlling the game with precision and shielding her inexperienced partner to win her games. But their men's teams (Rajeev/Amin and Baiju/Arun) could not match her and that caused their exit. In fact, they crashed out even before they could play their 3rd round robin match against Heroes and since the schedule was running late, they forfeited their match against Heroes to save some time.  Ranking 8 

Kings - Regin Jose (C)
Regin and the left handed Jitin as Kings' level 1 team were simply brilliant and won all their 3 matches in the round robin, quite comfortably. Jitin's all round play was a revelation and Regin as usual was pure power. They upset the much fancied Abhilash/Jude team in straight sets! Even though Kings had a weak level 2 team their women's team, Sujitha Jitin and Lekshmi Vinod, was quite strong and should have won a couple of matches. Their matches against Warriors(Ambika/Anjali) and Knights(Devi/Lekshmi Shailesh) were closely fought ones with both going to 3 sets. With a bit of luck and purpose, could have turned their fortunes. But it was not to be and failed to qualify for the Semis. Ranking 7

Lions - Saji Kalarikkal (C)
After watching their Level 1 team, one felt, Lions did not have the rub of the green during the initial seeding done to decide the teams by SAS committee.  But that did not deter their captain Saji from putting on a show of such fantastic badminton with some shrewd captaincy. Saji/Shah team fought hard against the much superior Heroes(Gijo/Ajay) and Tigers (Prasanth/Ragesh) with both matches going to 3 sets. And they easily won against Panthers(Rajeev/Amin). The women's team of Krishma and Sinu both appearing for the first time found it difficult with their inexperience hampering them.  Ranking 6

Knights - Abhilash R (C)
Knights one of the favorites before the tournament began, unfortunately did not play to their potential and surprisingly did not even qualify for the Semis. They had the best Men's team (Abhilash/Jude) in Level 1 and a strong women's team (Devi/Lekshmi Shailesh) and a decent Men's Level 2 team (Sreekumar/Sreelal). Abhilash/Jude suffered a shock loss against Regin/Jitin which upset their calculations. The one bright spot was the awesome performance of their women's team. Devi and Lekshmi were quite brilliant to watch and their match against the tough as a nut Vinitha and Seena was a treat. All the 3 matches they played were decided in 3 sets and with a bit of luck could have qualified for the Semis and further. Ranking 5

Tigers - Prasanth GV (C)
Prasanth and Ragesh combined well to garner 2 crucial wins out of their 3 matches to lead their team to Semifinals. Their match against the Panthers (Rajeev/Amin) was exciting to watch with the 3rd and final set decided at the score of 27-25. Their level 2 team of Eldho/Nihas also played very well to score important wins. In the Semis against the Cheetahs(Vishnu/Udayaraj) with the score at 16-all, Prasanth unfortunately twisted his ankle to retire from the match. Though Eldho was allowed as a substitute to continue the game, they could not sustain the pressure for long and lost out in the Semis. Ranking 4

Warriors - Natsumi Saji (C)
Warriors began their campaign in spectacular fashion with the well experienced Natsumi and the strong Pauly played with power and panache and perfection to beat Regin/Jitin in the first set. They played with such dominance that they took the first set so convincingly at 21-13. But what happened after that is a mystery as they could not win another set in the tournament. But their Men's Level 2 team(Gubash/Anup Naik) were confidence personified and won all their matches with ease. And their women's team (Ambika/Anjali) tried to overcome their inexperience with some superb badminton of their own to acquire two important wins to lead their team to Semis. In the Semis, Warriors came up against the eventual champions Heroes, though they fought valiantly and even Gubash/Anup team won their match to make it 1-1, their women's team could not match up and so lost in the Semis. Ranking 3

Cheetahs - Udayaraj TJ (C)
Cheetahs had one of the strongest women's team(Vinitha/Seena) and they proved their standing by winning all their matches comfortably. The champion that Vinitha is, she used all her experience and craft to surmount difficult situations and with Seena supporting her well was able to lead their team to Semis and then to Finals. Though their men's team (Vishnu/Udayaraj and Anoop/Manoj) did not play that well, they were able to score 3 crucial wins when it mattered to guide their team through. The Finals against Heroes were not up to expectations and Heroes easily beat both the Cheetahs' men's team to secure an unassailable 2-0 lead which meant the women's match was not required to be played.
Runner up - Ranking 2

Heroes - Gijo MS(C)
Luck smiled on Heroes during the initial seeding to get 3 equally good teams for their Men's level 1 and 2 and for the women's team. This made them strong favorites to win the title even before the tournament began. And they didn't falter at any stage and simply cruised through all their rounds easily to win the title. Gijo/Ajay both tall and good players won all their matches with ease. Vinod Asokan and Cesil combined well to win most of their matches. They only lost in the Semifinal round and that too in 3 sets. And Rohit and Silpa was too strong for any other women's team. Rohit has improved by leaps and bounds and completely demolished all his opponents with Silpa supporting him well. SBL 2015 Champions - Ranking 1

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Personally, it was really fulfilling to see many new players enjoy playing badminton. Instead of just appearing for the tournament, if you all could come for regular practice sessions, that would really make a difference. This tournament proved the difference between the players who regularly practiced and those who not.. And there are many who have a starting trouble and so very hesitant to join.  I urge you to shed your inhibitions and come and participate with these events. This is a great opportunity provided for everyone to enjoy sport in a relaxing environment. Don't miss it.

We take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in this event, and to those who supported and helped in various tasks related to this event.  See you all next year.

Personal picks

The Champions of SBL 2015         - Heroes
The Runner Up of SBL  2015        - Cheetahs
The team of the tournament       - Regin/Jitin
The player of the tournament     - Saji Kalarikkal
The unsung hero                         - Nigi Tiby
The most improved player          - Rohit Niranjan
The surprise package                  - Devi Jayaraj
The most promising debut          - Ambika Vishnu