Battle of equals in PBL Final

Delhi, winless after two outings, bounced back strongly with two back-to-back victories at home and then swamped Mumbai with unexpected ease. Mumbai, one of the serious title-contenders, eventually redeemed their reputation with a 3-0 rout of Saina Nehwal-led Awadhe Warriors in the semi-finals on Friday.

Han Li of the Mumbai Rockets shocked Saina Nehwal in the women's singles second semi-final it the Premier Badminton League.   -  AP

Inconsistency of most of the leading singles players and absolutely top-class fare in the doubles are the only consistent factors in this year’s Rs. 6.5-crore Premier Badminton League.

Even as surprise finalist Delhi Acers prepares to take on a wounded Mumbai Rockets in the final here on Sunday, this edition has clearly fallen short of expectations on more counts than one.

The quality of play in singles this past fortnight was nowhere close to what was on offer in the inaugural edition in 2013. Being an Olympic year, it was obviously not easy to attract marquee singles players at this time of the year. Not surprisingly, only sparsely-filled stands witnessed the action at each of the venues.

But what saved the event from being a highly forgettable one was the manner in which the doubles matches were won and lost.

On the eve of the final, Delhi are going to be wary of Mumbai who will be looking to avenge the surprising 0-5 defeat in their final league match earlier this week.

Delhi, winless after two outings, bounced back strongly with two back-to-back victories at home and then swamped Mumbai with unexpected ease. Mumbai, one of the serious title-contenders, eventually redeemed their reputation with a 3-0 rout of Saina Nehwal-led Awadhe Warriors in the semi-finals on Friday.

Following Han Li’s shock victory over Saina, Mumbai have reasons to fancy their chances in the women’s singles where Delhi’s P. C. Thulasi has appeared as the weakest link of the team.

Similarly for Delhi, Tommy Sugiarto will look to stretch his unbeaten run to six matches on Sunday. In fact, in the two men’s singles, Delhi’s fortunes depend much on Sugiarto and Ajay Jayaram or Rajiv Ouseph who are set to face H. S. Prannoy and R. M. V. Gurusaidutt.

In the paired events, if Mumbai look better in mixed doubles, Delhi hold the psychological edge in what appears to be an even battle in men’s doubles.

The presence of the lanky Vladimir Ivanov (2014 European champion in men’s doubles) gives Mumbai a huge advantage. The tireless Russian, having played 12 matches so far, combines with Denmark’s Mathias Boe (2012 Olympic silver medallist in men’s doubles) and Kamilla Rytter Juhl (former World champion and World No. 1 in mixed doubles).

For Delhi, Tan Boon Heong, part of the men’s doubles combination that won the gold here in the 2010 Commonwealth Games after a silver medal in the World championship earlier in the same year, holds a trick or two.

Heong and his Malaysian teammate Koo Keat Kien had overpowered Ivanov and a slightly-indisposed Boe in Bangalore earlier in the week to stretch their winning streak to four.

However, in mixed doubles, the combination of Koo Keat Kien and the reigning Commonwealth Games Mixed doubles champion Gabrielle Adcock has not been as successful.

So far, most pre-match predictions have been tossed out of the window with some eyebrow-raising upsets in the competition so far, owing to some startling results in the men’s singles.

Therefore, one can expect a close battle on Sunday with Delhi looking to administer a repeat dose to Mumbai and the visiting team keen to settle a score and take the honours.