London Games bronze medallist and IBL Icon player Saina Nehwal is delighted to be part of the same team as former Olympic champion and her childhood hero Taufiq Hidayat.

The 23-year-old Nehwal, who is preparing for the upcoming World Championship in China next month, said, “He (Taufiq) is a role model and a driving force in the game. I’m really happy to be part of Hyderabad Hotshots team and I was thrilled once he was also included.”

Saina, who bagged a price of USD 120,000 in the IBL auction, said she was looking forward to train with the legendary Indonesian.

“Getting to train and play along with him is going to be brilliant. It will be the best part about playing the league,” the world No.3 women’s player said.

The Indian shuttle star further added, “Fans would love to watch him on courts. I know Taufik Sir since I joined the game. He is known for his wrist play, his back strokes are matchless and so nicely and accurately hit, and his net play and court coverage is unparalleled.

“I remember playing with him as a mixed double partner for an exhibition match in Syed Modi Memorial tournament in Lucknow in 2009. I have great memories of that match. I also have a smashing photograph with him, Prakash (Padukone) sir and Gopi (Pullela Gopichand) sir from an event held in Mumbai the same year.

“Now, our association for Hyderabad Hotshots will be for more than a fortnight.”

Commenting on the Indonesian’s famed charm and handsome looks, Saina, who has a hat-trick of Indonesia Open titles under her belt, said, “Taufiq sir is the king of badminton, handsome, talented and very humble. He is extremely energetic on the court and so charming that he makes badminton look easy and simple, though it’s not. It is the fastest game in the world and requires loads of energy to play. Taufiq sir is very simple and yet moody, if he is not interested in a game he will not play. I’m sure his presence will be a great morale booster to Hyderabad Hotshots.”

Asked if she had any plans to take the Indonesian legend for sight-seeing, Saina replied, “It depends on the team management on how they will manage. It will be very hectic to play in six cities, travelling from one place to another in 18 days. So, there will hardly be any time left for sight-seeing.”

The USD 1-million Indian Badminton League is set to launch on August 14, 2013, with some high-voltage action expected between Krrish Delhi Smashers and Pune Pistons. The 2013 IBL will feature six franchises and will run for 18 days.

Each franchise will host a two-day leg and the league will involve a total of 90 matches.

This article has been corrected for a factual error. Saina Nehwal won bronze medal at 2012 London Olympics, not silver medal as mentioned earlier.

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