Hyderabad Hotshots are on a roll and already sitting atop the points table of the IBL as they host the Banga Beats today.
The Hotshots, led by icon player Saina Nehwal, hold the edge against the visitors. With Nehwal playing at home, it really doesn’t matter who Banga decide to field against her -- Carolina Marin or Tai Tzu Ying. Nehwal should be able to take care of either.
World No 7 Tai, may have beaten Saina in their last meeting at the Malaysian Open in January, but the Indian enjoys a better head-to-head (5-2) record against the Chinese Taipei player.
Against Marin, Saina has won the lone encounter between the duo at the Indonesian Open this year. Marin may have beaten PV Sindhu earlier in the IBL, but Saina with her determination will be a different player to deal with altogether.
Men’s doubles will be keenly contested between Hyderabad’s Shem Goh and Wah Lim and Banga’s Carsten Mogensen and Akshay Dewalkar. Shem Goh-Wah Lim hold the edge here as they are the Malaysian national team’s well settled No 2 pairing.
In the men’s singles, Banga Beats’ P Kashyap should be able to register a win, but the Beats will struggle in their second singles fixture as the injured Hu Yun is out of contention. They have brought in a replacement in Dane Jan Jorgensen, but he could not play against the Delhi Smashers in Bangalore and it’s still unclear whether he’ll be fit enough to make his debut in Hyderabad.
In his absence, Banga have no choice but to field veteran Arvind Bhat as the second singles player and Hyderabad’s Ajay Jayaram or Tanongsak are both capable of beating Bhat. The mixed doubles tie could go either way.
So, with the Hotshots set to win one men’s singles, one women’s singles and the men’s doubles ties, they should win this clash 3-2. The Hotshots will go all out to ensure they maintain their lead atop the points table to get a choice of venue for the semi-finals, which obviously will be Hyderabad.
The writer is a former India player