Ajay Jayaram’s remarkable turnaround in form shaped Hyderabad Hotshots’ 3-1 triumph over Awadhe Warriors in the $1 million inaugural Vodafone-IBL at the National Sports Club of India here on Saturday.
Outplayed by R.M.V. Gurusaidutt in the opening game and for better part of the second, the Chennai-born Jayaram appeared to be suffering a lack of confidence and heading toward a defeat. But trailing 10-15 in the second and hitting smash shots too long or wide, Jayaraman put up a gritty display to win six points in a row to level scores and then clinch the third and deciding game. Jayaraman’s great escape to victory brought a sudden end to the five-match tie even as the mixed doubles pair of both the teams were preparing for the last match. In fact Saina was slated to play the mixed doubles with V. Shem Goh against Markis Kido and Pia Z. Bernadet. Hotshots’ other wins were fashioned by Saina and the doubles pair of V. Shem Goh and Lim Wah Khim.
Earlier young K. Srikanth cut fancied S. Tanongsuk to size, scoring a dream straight-game win and provided a roaring start to Warriors’ campaign. Nothing seemed to have prepared the world’s top 20 left hander from Thailand to counter a brave heart Indian who was remarkable at the net and controlled the push stroke. For a large part of the 38-minute skirmish the 20-year-old Srikanth from the Gopichand Academy outwitted a rival who led 3-1 with three smash shot winners. Sriknath realising the futility of returning the shuttle at a quicker speed and at a height slowed down the pace. He changed tactics by teasing and taunting Tanongsuk at the net and won the first game with considerable ease.
Clearly a three-game outcome against the world no. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the league match, which he had lost, had primed Srikanth for a tussle with players ranked above him. Having entered the field with the confidence of three wins in the league and done his home work with coach Hafiz Hashim, Srikanth showed the assertive body language to take charge of the match in a commanding manner. Tanongsuk showed flashes of brilliance while recovering from 3-7 and 8-14 and enjoy a game point at 20-19 in the second, but eventually he went down in a stoical manner to a customer who for nearly three quarter of an hour proved to be tough as nails.
But one and half hours into the late evening schedule the match score was locked at 1-1 with the reigning queen of Indian badminton Saina registering a crushing victory over P. V. Sindhu. A happy-looking
Saina said: “I would like to thank my fans who have supported me all through. Sindhu played really well and gave her best, but I managed to outwit her. I have been really lucky during the entire League that I won all my matches. I am happy to have won this match and hope my team wins the League.’’
The results: Hyderabad Hotshots beat Awadhe Warriors 3-1 (S. Tanongsuk lost to K. Srikanth 21-12, 21-20; Saina Nehwal bt P.V. Sindhu 21-15, 21-7; V. Shem Goh & Lim Wah Khim bt Markis Kido & Mathais Boe 21-14, 13-21, 11-4; Ajay Jayaram bt R.M.V. Gurusaidutt 10-21, 21-17,11-7.