Kidambi Srikanth's excellent form can be considered a huge gain for India from the initial skirmishes in the Premier Badminton League (PBL), when viewed in the wider perspective of qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Although the results achieved during the fortnight of the PBL will not be counted in the race to make the cut for the Rio Olympics, one cannot discount the psychological boost that Srikanth would have gained with fabulous victory over the former world no.1, Lee Chong Wei, during the keenly contested Hyderabad-Bengaluru encounter on Sunday.
It was the first win for the 21 year old Indian youngster in five meetings with the redoubtable Malaysian, considered one of the two best players of the last decade. And it was achieved with sustained aggression and fine strategy, catching the speedy Lee repeatedly along the forehand sideline with powerful jump smashes.
rikanth's return to top gear, following a year plagued by injury and loss of form, will play a big part in Bengaluru Topguns' plans to topple Mumbai Rockets in the second of the two ties to be played in Lucknow on Tuesday. The current world no.9 has enough weapons in his arsenal to take care of either H S Prannoy or R M V Gurusaidutt, who would be pitted against him.
Although Srikanth's team-mate Sameer Varma could not get the better of Hyderabad's Parupalli Kashyap, his 14-15, 13-15 loss was close enough to give his team the confidence that he could take on either Prannoy or Gurusaidutt, and stand a better than even chance of scoring a point for his team.
China's Suo Di, who is the sole women's singles player in the Bengaluru team, appeared to be a good all-round player in her match against Thai teenager Supanida Katethong, and should fancy her chances against either her compatriot Han Li or Indian junior Ruthvika Shivani, who takes ninth spot in the BWF girls' rankings.
Bengaluru coach Arvind Bhat would have been delighted with the mixed doubles form of Ashwini Ponnappa, who has traditionally been uncomfortable at the net, but played really well to eclipse her regular women's doubles partner, Jwala Gutta, when they clashed against each other in the Hyderabad-Bengaluru tie in Mumbai. Ashwini's combination with Denmark's Joachim Fischer Nielsen looked well-oiled, and not reflective of two players pairing up for the first time.
In the Chennai Smashers – Delhi Acers tie, which takes place earlier in the day in Lucknow, P V Sindhu should be odds-on favourite to deliver the women's singles point for Chennai against her Gopichand Academy mate, P C Thulasi.
However, any two among the men's singles trio of Frenchman Brice Leverdez, and Indonesians Simon Santoso and Sony Dwi Kuncoro would have their hands full against Delhi's Indonesian import Tommy Sugiarto, Ajay Jayaram and Englishman Rajiv Ouseph. It promises to be a tight clash, as have been most of the matches in the PBL thus far.
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