Without a shadow of doubt, the Vodafone Indian Badminton League (IBL) is one of the best things that has happened to Indian badminton.
And it is happening at the right time as Indian badminton has emerged from the shadows of mediocrity that had enveloped it for so long.
PV Sindhu hammering two of the best Chinese shuttlers at the recently concluded World Championships to win the elusive bronze medal and two other Indians reaching the quarter-finals just goes to show that India is on its way to becoming a superpower of the sport.
The IBL therefore, reflects the growing strength of the country in world badminton and that is one of the main reasons why some of the biggest names in world badminton, led by the legendary Lee Chong Wei, the current women’s World No 2 Juliane Schenk and a host of other top-ranked world players are participating.
The six-franchise league will see cut-throat competition and edge-of-the-seat matches. And therefore while there are many clashes to look forward to, the most mouth-watering one, as far as fans are concerned, is the eagerly awaited encounter between Saina Nehwal of Hyderabad Hotshots and Sindhu of Awadhe Warriors.
The two could have met twice before, including the Delhi Super Series in April this year, but Saina lost before the much-awaited clash. And with Sindhu claiming yesterday, “I am looking forward to playing against Saina,” the interest being generated in anticipation of this match is unmatched.
Today’s opening tie will see the Jwala Gutta-led Delhi Smashers take on the Ashwini Ponnappa-led Pune Pistons, in what can be described as a clash between two evenly balanced teams.
Well balanced clash
If Delhi has got depth in men’s doubles with the fantastic Malaysian duo of Tan Boon-Koo Kien, the Pistons have in Schenk a formidable ladies singles player, who should take on India No 3 Arundhati Pantwane.
Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Minh, who lost to ‘Super Dan’ of China in the semi-finals at the World Championships, will be favourite to win his singles match, but Delhi Smashers with either HS Prannoy or Sai Praneeth playing the second men’s singles tie, could be better then Sourabh Varma of Pune Pistons.
It may well boil down to the last match of the tie, the mixed doubles, where former partners Gutta and Ponnappa will face each other across the net for the first time after their separation as partners. Unless Delhi coach Rashid Sidek really pulls out some magic from his bag of tricks, this tie may well go 3-2 in favour of Pune.
* The writer is a former India player.