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Mumbai Masters, Delhi Smashers should rule in Pune

Sanjay SharmaWith Malaysian World No 1 Lee Chong Wei displaying his great talent and leading Mumbai Masters to an emphatic, almost one-sided win over Krrish Delhi Smashers by a huge 4-1 margin on Tuesday in Mumbai, it seems certain that they will carry their form to Pune where they face the Saina Nehwal-led Hyderabad Hotshots today.

It will surprise many to know that modern badminton was born in Pune around the 1860s. In fact, for a few years, the sport was actually called ‘Poonai’. The first badminton court made by the British army officers is where the┬ácanteen of the Khirkee Ammunition Factory stands today. What better setting therefore for this much anticipated clash between two of the most talked about teams in the Indian Badminton League.

Lee Chong Wei should not encounter any opposition either from Ajay Jayaram or S Tanongsak and should give the first point to the Masters. Saina should, in all probability, make it 1-1 for Hotshots when she faces Tine Baun. The two have met nine times before and Saina is up 5-4. The last time the two played was at the 2012 BWF Superseries Finals where it was the Danish All England star who won a hardfought three-game affair. But Saina is having a great run in the IBL.

Masters should win the second singles too. But they have a problem of plenty. The format permits only three foreigners to play and if they opt for Vladimir Ivanov here, the Masters will win the second singles for sure. But if Marc Zwiebler plays against any of the Hyderabad Hotshots players, it’s a 50-50 chance.
Khim Wah Lim and Shem Goh should win the men’s doubles for Hyderabad.

Lee Chong Wei
Mumbai Masters’ Lee Chong Wei in full flow during the clash against Delhi Smashers’ Daren Liew at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Worli on Tuesday. Pic/Suresh KK

Nehwal is hoping for a big win here, but this may not happen as whatever they throw at Mumbai in the mixed doubles, the Hotshots just don’t have the depth to win. Masters may opt for either the Lee Chong Wei-Tine Baun combo or the Ivanov-Sikki Reddy duo depending on how they follow the three foreign players’ rule. This match should go in Mumbai’s favour 3-2 or 4-1.

Awadhe vs Delhi
The second clash, between Awadhe Warriors and Krrish Delhi Smashers should go the distance. With a question mark on the fitness and recovery of Jwala Gutta, Delhi may struggle in the mixed doubles. “Our physio has told me to take rest for a few days. I did not play in Lucknow and Mumbai and this rest has been enough. I should be on court in Pune,” said Gutta.

Presuming Gutta plays, here’s how the action could unfold in Pune. Daren Liew and Sai Praneeth will win one singles between them, with Praneeth having a better chance against Wei Feng Chong or K Srikanth. The men’s singles therefore is likely to finish 1-1.

In the best match of the evening, there will be fireworks in the men’s doubles, as Keat Koo-Boon Tan will face Markis Kiddo-Mathias Boe. Though all four are world beaters Delhi may have the edge as their pair is a more regular one. Then, icon player PV Sindhu should win the ladies singles against either Arundhati Pantawane or Jindapon of Thailand.

This brings us to the fifth and most crucial match — the mixed doubles and with Jwala pairing up with V Diju, Delhi may just have that experience and confidence to beat Kiddo and Sapsiree. This combination will again depend on the three foreign players rule. This may also mean that 15-year-old K Maneesha could again be drafted in for duty. But either way, Gutta and Diju should win leading to a 3-2 victory in favour of Delhi.

The writer is a former India player.

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