Security concerns can never be underestimated. Therefore, the added precautions taken by Delhi Police on the eve of the Independence Day were quite understandable.
Clearing all the hurdles in accessing the Siri Fort Indoor Complex, around 300 spectators took their seats when the first shuttle was tossed in the inaugural Indian Badminton League. That clearly exposed the organisers’ claims of “sell-out crowds.” If the first-day response was anything to go by, it was quite clear that the IBL is yet to catch on.
On court, Delhi Smashers did their bit to get to build some support base by raising visions of upstaging Pune Pistons but faltered at the threshold of victory.
Pune won 3-2 past midnight in a match where it was as confident of winning the three singles as Delhi was of claiming the two doubles rubbers.
Pune received four points to Delhi’s two. Interestingly, there was a twist to the tale in the very first act.
Young Sai Praneeth, ranked 37th, provided Delhi a dream start. Punching above his weight, Praneeth upstaged a travel-weary Nyugen Tien Minh, the World No.7 Vietnamese who had claimed a bronze in the World championship last week, and reached here only in the early hours of the day.
Praneeth’s 21-16, 21-20 victory over a top-10 player in the world is just the kind of visibility the IBL offers to the Indian hopefuls. The youngster displayed brilliant retrieving skills and kept the Nyugen guessing to come out stronger.
World No.2 German Juliane Schenk’s victory over Thailand’s Nichaon Jindapon came on expected lines. Continuing the predictable sequence, Malaysia’s World No.2 men’s pair of Kien Keat Koo and Boon Hoeng Tan dismissed the seasoned duo of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas to again put Delhi ahead. Thereafter, 36th ranked Saurabh Verma beat H.S. Prannoy, ranked 46th, in a neck-and-neck battle to keep alive Pune’s hopes.
The decider brought to the court G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa across the net with their respective overseas partners.
Jwala and Kien Keat Koo led 19-16 in the first game before Ashwini and Joachim Fischer Nielsen produced a barrage of attacking strokes to win five straight points.
After dropping the second game, the Pune pair took early control of the decider and sealed the tie.
Meanwhile, the non-appearance of World No.1 Lee Chong Wei during the opening ceremony has reinforced the belief that the Malaysian could well be an absentee for Mumbai’s campaign opener against Bangalore on Thursday.
Should Lee Chong Wei, who suffered cramps during the World championship final against eventual champion Lin Dan, choose to stay away, Kashyap may well cross swords with World No.14 Marc Zwiebler to whom he has lost both previous encounters.
The results: Pune Pistons beat Delhi Smashers 3-2 (Nyugen Tien Minh lost to B. Sai Praneeth 21-16, 21-20; Juliane Schenk bt Nichaon Jindapon 21-15, 21-6; Rupesh Kumar & Sanave Thomas lost to Kien Keat Koo and Boon Heong Tan 21-13, 21-16; Saurabh Verma bt H.S. Prannoy 21-16, 19-21, 11-5; Joachim Fischer Nielsen & Ashwini Ponnappa bt Kien Keat Koo & G. Jwala 21-19, 16-21, 11-3).