Sunday's double-header in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) could provide interesting fare at NSCI's Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium, as Hyderabad Hunters take on Bengaluru Topguns in the afternoon match, and Mumbai battle it out against Chennai in the evening.
Face-off: Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa
It is amazing to note that, while the Chennai and Mumbai teams have back-up players in every one of the five events to be contested, Bengaluru and Hyderabad have chosen to go into the fortnight-long tournament with just one women's singles player, in China's Suo Di and Thailand's Supanida Katethong, respectively.
The big risk
If there is an injury to either of these players early in the tournament, they would be left virtually without a challenge in this event. Bengaluru may well ask Ashwini Ponnappa to don the singles shirt, but simply cannot expect her to deliver that point for her side, since she will have to shoulder mixed doubles duties as well.
Similarly, if the world's seventh ranked junior, Supanida Katethong pulls up indisposed for whatsoever reason, one cannot see either Jwala Gutta or Meghana Jakkampudi stepping into the singles arena, and delivering a point in place of the 17-year-old youngster.'
That said, one could expect sterling fare in the two men's singles matches in the Hyderabad-Bengaluru face-off, with Kidambi Srikkanth or Sameer Varma clashing with veteran Malaysian star Lee Chong Wei and Parupalli Kashyap, in whatever order the team captains place them.
Trump card strategy
It would be difficult to see Hyderabad miss placing their trump card on Chong Wei, whose record of being No 1 in the world for 199 consecutive weeks may never be broken. The trump card would bring Hyderabad two points, with only a small risk of going -1 down if Chong Wei fails to deliver the goods.
Both teams are very strong in the men's doubles department with Malaysia's regular combination of Khim Wah Lim and Hoon Thien How turning out in Bengaluru gear, being favoured to face Denmark's Carsten Mogensen and stocky Indonesian old-timer Markis Kido.
The mixed doubles would appear to give Hyderabad a clear advantage, with Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa ranged on opposite sides of the net, most probably in the company of Danes Mogensen and Joachim Fischer Nielsen, respectively. Jwala's unquestioned expertise at the net gives the Hunters a chance of wrapping up this tie, since the net is not quite Ashwini's preferred territory.
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