Bengaluru: Delhi Acers, Awadhe Warriors and Chennai Smashers have all but qualified for the semi-finals of the six-team Premier Badminton League (PBL), while Bengaluru Topguns are out of the reckoning for the last four stage, with all teams having at least one tie left, and Chennai and Mumbai Rockets having two in hand.
As the badminton circus takes a day off on Tuesday, and then moves to Bangalore for the last of the double-headers, it has become apparent that the key to staying in contention for the semi-finals has been to not lose a trump match, which nets the team two points for a victory, but a negative point for a loss.
Interestingly, it cannot be taken for granted that Delhi, Awadhe and Chennai have qualified, for a trump loss and a tie defeat in their closing rounds can actually cause their points tally to shrink! And that is the beauty of the new innovative trump rule, that has managed to keep interest in the league matches alive to the bitter end.
League toppers Delhi (before Monday's matches) have actually lost more matches than they have won – seven wins against nine losses. But the fact that they have won all four of their trump games has meant that they have two points more than Awadhe, whose win-loss tally is better at 8-8, but who have lost one of the four trump clashes. All that Delhi has to do is ensure that it does not lose its trump match in the final tie.
The team that has the best chance of topping the table at the conclusion of the league is Chennai Smashers which, like Delhi, has a clean trump record, has garnered 12 points, and has in hand one additional match, which will have been played on Monday.
The two teams locked in a desperate battle to bag the fourth semi-final berth are Hyderabad and Mumbai. The former have not played to their potential, with their trump card (no pun intended!), Lee Chong Wei, suffering two defeats, including a costly one as his team's trump against Delhi's Tommy Sugiarto, before making amends with two wins.
Mumbai have also been patchy, with their singles exponents, H S Prannoy, R M V Gurusaidutt and China's Han Li being far from convincing in their three outings before Monday's clash against Saina Nehwal's Awadhe. It is the result of this tie that is likely to determine the fourth semi-finalist – though Mumbai will have one more chance against Delhi on Wednesday in the Garden City.