Hyderabad: As the group stage of the Premier Badminton League gallops towards its conclusion, badminton fans at the Gachibowli Stadium will enjoy a double-header, with the home team Hyderabad Hunters taking on Mumbai Rockets in the former's final league tie, and Awadhe Warriors clashing with Chennai Smashers thereafter.
Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu
The latest standings have Delhi Acers virtually qualified for the semi-finals, with Awadhe Warriors hot on their heels and only a couple of points away from making the last four. It is the Hyderabad squad that has to now force the pace in its final two engagements, to have any hope of making the grade.
It will be a far from easy task, as the absence of Lee Chong Wei (who returned to Malaysia last night, as planned before the start of the league) will put the onus squarely on an off-colour Parupalli Kashyap and the recently anointed world no.1 junior, A S Siril Verma, who is all of 16 years old.
HS Prannoy and R M V Gurusaidutt will put their best foot forward to thrust Hyderabad onto the back foot, while Mumbai's Chinese import Han Li will be strongly favoured to beat Thailand's 17 year old Supanida Katethong, whose form has alternated between the sublime and the ridiculous.
Russia's gangling Vladimir Ivanov will be called upon to reveal his doubles prowess in the company of Mumbai skipper Mathias Boe and Dane Kamilla Rytter Juhl against the likes of Markis Kido, Carsten Mogensen and Jwala Gutta. The mixed doubles especially promises to be an edge-of-the-seat encounter.
In the high-voltage Awadhe-Chennai evening tie, we could finally see the long-awaited confrontation between Lucknow captain Saina Nehwal and her Uber Cup team-mate PV Sindhu – unless the world no.2 decides that her Achilles tendon injury is not sufficiently healed to allow her take on her redoubtable compatriot.
Also for Awadhe, the in-form Thai left-hander Tanongsak and reigning Indian national champion Sai Praneeth should enjoy taking on Indonesians Simon Santoso and Sony Dwi Kuncoro or Frenchman Brice Leverdez, but Britain's Chris Adcock is bound to play a strong hand for Chennai in both the paired events.
The form-book points to victories by Mumbai Rockets and Chennai Smashers, strengthening the chances of these two sides of making the play-off semi-finals.