Come Saturday, and the refurbished Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium at Worli’s National Sports Club of India will be throbbing with activity. After all the city will be hosting the final of the inaugural Indian Badminton League.
And if one’s wish were to be granted, Mumbai Masters would be up against Hyderabad Hotshots: the tantilising possibility of Lee Chong Wei’s side facing-off against Saina Nehwal & Co in the all-important clash.
But before one begins stretching his dreams, Mumbai have a mountain to climb against Awadhe Warriors in the second semi-final in Bangalore this evening. Chong Wei & Co will be under pressure to overturn the 2-3 result that went against them versus the Warriors in the group stage. Mumbai’s progress will once again depend on the performance of Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov. It’s imperative he delivers the goods in order to give the Masters an edge in this crucial clash.
Although World No 1 Chong Wei will be favourite to win his singles match, it may be recalled that he was stretched by K Srikanth who put up an impressive show against the Malaysian in the league.
“Srikanth surprised me. I was impressed with his speed and determination. India has some really good singles players coming up. I am taking them very seriously,” Chong Wei had said after his match in Bangalore.
Another promising youngster Gurusai Dutt also lost a very close match to Ivanov. Nevertheless, one feels Masters will end up winning both the men’s singles matches today as well. In all probability, Warriors will field the same line-up that beat Mumbai previously, but even were they to make changes, it would be fascinating to see how Gurusai Dutt matches up against Chong Wei. The former has been in terrific form and would surely not mind having a go at his more illustrious opponent.
The one match that will surely go to the Warriors is the women’s singles where it will be difficult for veteran Tine Baun to upset the 18-year-old PV Sindhu who has rediscovered her touch after a patchy start to the competition. Sindhu is raring to go and said: “I am playing well now and have the confidence of helping my team win this IBL.”
When it comes to the doubles clashes, it remains to be seen whether Chong Wei will feature in the mixed doubles tie. It is also not clear whether Ivanov will team up with Manu Attri or Sumeeth Reddy in the doubles match.
Masters will have to take a chance against the established pair of Mathias Boe and Markis Kido. Attri and Reddy together may not make it as the speed and firepower of Kido and Boe is overwhelming. Only Ivanov can counter that. All in all fans are in for a riveting clash today.
The writer is a former India player.