The Vodafone-IBL has so far dished out good fare and appears to have become a roaring success. Inaugurated a few days after P.V. Sindhu’s success story in the World championship, the $1 million league has announced itself with much fanfare.
In their own way, all six teams dished out top class and fast-paced badminton first in New Delhi, followed by Lucknow before four teams turned up at the National Sports Club of India and entertained the Mumbai crowds.
Sachin Tendulkar and a handful of local cricketers too joined in to watch the action, especially World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei wave his racquet with a touch of class for a little over half an hour and overwhelm a persevering rival.
And now all six teams have assembled at the sports city of Pune for what has to be regarded as a festival of badminton for two days on Thursday and Friday.
Change of fortunes
Even without big stars in its ranks the home team has won two matches to be among the top four in the points table after three matches. Clearly the locals would look forward to a change of fortunes in Friday’s late evening match against Banga Beats after a lacklustre display against Hyderabad Hotshots in Mumbai.
After a week of throbbing action Masters and Hotshots have 11 points each with two wins and the two will lock horns in the first match at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Thursday.
Wei played the first men’s singles and the mixed doubles with Tine Baun and featured in two of Masters’ four wins against Krrish Delhi Smashers. He is expected to win his first match probably against Ajay Jayaram, but Saina Nehwal, after her splendid wins over Sindhu, Arundhati Panthawane and German Juliane Schenk, should start as the favourite against Baun.
Masters fielded European champion Marc Zwiebler against Awadhe Warriors’ Sai Praneeth against the claims of Russian Vladmir Ivanov.
It was this match that delivered a high quality contest and actually clinched the tie for the Masters.
With Taufik Hidayat caught in a war of words with Saina on the auction process and playing the role of coach in the previous match against Pistons, Hotshots may field S. Tanongsak in the second men’s singles and the outcome of this match could tilt the balance.
Smashers have seven points from three games, but are four points above bottom-placed Awadhe Warriors and these two clash in the second match on Thursday.
Pressure would be upon the two among Sai Praneeth, Darren Liew and H.S. Prannoy to win the singles. Smashers’ strong suit is the doubles pair in Kien Keat Too and Boon Hoeng Tan.
Thrashed by Saina and Carolina Marin, Sindhu ought to be looking to score a first win in the league.