Awadhe Warriors, led by P.V. Sindhu, will be engaged in an absorbing battle for a semifinal slot when it takes on Pune Pistons in the last league encounter for both the teams in the Indian Badminton League at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Monday.
In the city which has earned the reputation of being the ‘badminton capital’ of India thanks to the noteworthy performances of the trainees at the Gopi Chand Academy here, the fans could not have asked for more exciting fare.
The two teams will meet in a must-win clash as the IBL enters its decisive phase. For the record, Warriors has 12 points from four games and Pistons 14 from four games.
The 18-year-old Sindhu, fresh from her World championship bronze medal feat, is showing her value as the team’s icon player.
Her victory over former World No.1 and All England champion Tine Baun of Mumbai Masters on Saturday night, exemplified her growing stature in the big league.
The way Awadhe Warriors fought back to down Mumbai Masters (3-2) was also a clear reminder of the ability of Sindhu and her team-mates to keep going when it matters.
Kidambi Srikanth, winner of the 2013 Thailand Open (a big hit with the spectators for his powerful smashes against the likes of World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei) and Parupalli Kashyap are both in fine form and it will be interesting to see how they cope with the pressure of playing in front of home crowds after their enhanced reputations in the big league.
The other key player in men’s singles for Warriors is another local hero — R. M. V. Guru Sai Dutt.
Incidentally, Warriors’ three best singles players all hail from Hyderabad. And to the delight of the team management, Mathias Boe and Markis Kido (men's doubles) and Markis and Pia Bernadet (mixed doubles) have played a significant role in the Warriors campaign so far.
But Pistons' confidence is also high after its impressive, 4-1 win over Banga Beats.
It has in its line-up the World No. 7 Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam, two-time Indian national champion Anup Sridhar, one of the best young talents from India and Saurabh Verma in men’s singles and World No. 3 Juliane Schenk in women’s singles — players who are capable of rising to the occasion on their day.
Pistons should definitely look to the doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa, who will partner 2012 Olympics bronze medallist (mixed doubles) Joachim Fischer Nielsen of Denmark, for the big break in this crucial contest as the mixed doubles has often become the decider so far in the matches of the IBL.