Come December and the ‘City of Nawabs’ gets ready to host some of the big names of badminton. Given the rise in status and stature of Indian badminton in recent years, even a Grand Prix Gold event in the country manages to attract a fairly strong field.
Former Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat is the biggest draw of this $120,000 event, the second biggest in the country after the Super Series event that New Delhi will continue to host till 2017.
Over the next week, P. Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram have a great opportunity to come up with a strong finish. Seeded two and four, the Indian players will be keen to more than justify their pre-event billing by getting past the semifinals.
A host of other Indian players also have just the right kind of opposition to feel confident of winning. Former National champion Sourabh Verma leads the second level of Indian players behind Kashyap and Ajay.
The focus will be on the younger Indian players to provide the unexpected. The women’s section, where Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu are the top two seeds, an all-Indian final looks a distinct possibility. The challengers from Japan and Indonesia look fairly beatable in these conditions.
The organisers are confident of Saina landing here on Tuesday, the day meant for the qualifying rounds. Since Saina has stayed away from the National championship for a few years now and returned home from here last year after being part of the draw, there is still some suspense over her participation.
“As of now, Saina will be part of the field. If there is a change in her plans, then we shall deal with it accordingly. Why worry about any eventuality at this stage?” was how Dr. Vijai Sinha, the secretary-general of the Badminton Association of India (BAI), reacted when asked about Saina’s participation.
In October, the BAI had come up with a rule making it mandatory to play in the National championship. But the reluctance of some of the leading names to play in home events on some pretext or the other has not been dealt with firmly so far.
Looking to end on high
Kashyap, who won the National title in October, will be looking to finish the year on a high. Hidayat, despite some indifferent performances that have pushed him out of the top-10 of the world rankings, is the favourite.
The temperamental Indonesian can win almost at will in such a field. But, he is also known to give up matches, almost giving the impression that he is disinterested in continuing.
The main round action commences on Wednesday with several Indian players waiting to make waves.