Uncertainty over Lee Chong Wei's availability continues
Will he or won’t he? That’s the question everyone is asking about World No 1 Lee Chong Wei. He was supposed to arrive on August 13 and play for Mumbai Masters in the Indian Badminton League.
His absence though did not deter the Masters from beating Bangalore’s Banga Beats, thanks to a brilliant effort by Russian Ivanov Vladmir, who stunned Parupalli Kashyap and set the tone for the night on Thursday.
Owners of the Mumbai franchise insisted yesterday that the Malaysian ace is flying directly to Lucknow and will play against the Pune Pistons in what is being touted as a derby clash.
Given their performance against Bangalore, the Masters should win the first men’s singles as Nyugen Tien Minh is not in the form that won him a bronze medal at last week’s World Championships in Guangzhou.
Mumbai has more depth in singles as both Marc Zwiebler and Ivanov are good enough to take the court against Sourabh Verma and pull off a victory.
In women’s singles, Pune have a very formidable competitor in World No 2 Juliane Schenk, in women’s singles.
“I am really excited about the IBL. In fact, I skipped the China event to concentrate on this and I intend to win all my matches for my team,” Schenk said a couple of days ago.
Schenk is expected to beat Tine Baun, the veteran Danish star in the women’s singles, and the men’s doubles, in all probability, will go down to the wire.
Meanwhile, the clash in Lucknow between Krrish Delhi Smashers and Hyderabad Hotshots will be interesting mainly from the point of view of Saina Nehwal taking on Jwala Gutta’s team. The two have known each other for a long time but are known not to be the best of friends.
Hotshots’ icon player Saina, showed her class in her match against PV Sindhu on Thursday. She showed great poise and confidence and showed that she still rules Indian badminton. With the burden off her shoulders, she will be unstoppable in the remainder of the competition.
“I am a lot relaxed now. The media had already billed me as a loser against Sindhu, but I came out fighting. It was a good match and I am relieved that the pressure is off, both for Sindhu and me.
She is very good and will get better undoubtedly. The important thing for all to see is that two of us are now in the Top 10 world rankings and that is so good for Indian badminton,” Saina told MiD DAY.
Delhi will probably field Arundhati Pantawane, but the match is as good as sealed for Hotshots. Delhi however, will win the men’s doubles with the fantastic combo of Boon Tan/Kiet Koo of Malaysia, who will face compatriots Shem Goh and Wah Khim. With Indonesian legend Taufik Hidayat likely sit in the dug out again, Tanongsak will have to take the lead in the men’s
singles and he should be able to beat Sai Praneeth. Though Sai edged out Vietnamese Nyugen Tien Minh in the clash against Pune Pistons, Tanongsak is younger, faster and has more experience.
The second singles should go to Delhi Smashers as both HS Prannoy and Malaysia’s Darren Liew are strong enough to beat Ajay Jayaram whose form has been erratic.
It will therefore come down to the mixed doubles where Jwala Gutta will again pair up with Kiet Koo rather than her regular partner V Diju.
Hotshots will persist with Shem Goh and Pradnya Gadre, who played very well to beat Marcus Kiddo and Apisree of Awadhe Warriors in three tight games. Gadre is young, fast and confident and could win it for Hyderabad Hotshots.
The writer is a former India player