Hyderabad Hunters: Everything hinges on Marin!

The Hyderabad Hunters’ star player Carolina Marin is injured and the team is hoping that she will be fit before the PBL begins.

Carolina Marin has endeared herself to the fans.   -  K. V. S. GIRI

Just a few days ahead of the Premier Badminton League, the withdrawal of reigning Olympic champion, Carolina Marin, from the Dubai BWF Super Series Finals was not perhaps a good augury for Hyderabad Hunters, which is in the hunt for the elusive title.

Last season, Marin had endeared herself to the fans with her impeccable manners, apart from her renowned mastery on the court, and the smiling champion from Spain should be fighting fit right through the championship for the Hunters to be in the reckoning. The team paid the base price of Rs. 50 lakh for Marin.

The huge gap — both in age and gamewise — between Marin and the young Indian talent Rasika Raje in women’s singles is a handicap for Hyderabad.

In men’s singles, the 37-year-old South Korean Lee Hyun il (the 2006 World Championship bronze medallist), the gifted Sai Praneeth (winner of the Singapore Super Series, beating Kidambi Srikanth in an all-Indian final, and the Thai Open) and Rahul Yadav carry the hopes of the team.

Lee Hyun, (also a member of the Korean team, which won its third Sudirman Cup in 2003, and figuring in a two-time gold medal-winning team in the Asian Games), is a team player to the core. The best performance from this southpaw in 2017 was being the surprise finalist before losing to K. Srikanth in the Denmark Open. His last big win in singles was in 2008 when he beat Lin Dan in the Korean Open final.

Lu Ching Yao of Chinese-Taipei, who was a runner-up in the doubles, in the Syed Modi International, Thailand Masters and the US Open in 2017, should be a dependable player. He will partner the highly talented and big-smashing Satwik Sairaj.

The women’s doubles challenge will be in the hands of the relatively lesser-known Indonesian Pia Zebadiah and Anoushka Parikh.

Performance: Semifinalist in the previous edition.

Quote: “Well, if critics rate us underdogs despite the presence of such a world class player like Carolina Marin, we would welcome it and go out to prove a point or two. We are capable of surprising many in this edition.” – B. Sai Praneeth.