One of India’s premier shuttlers, Parupalli Kashyap, on a comeback trail after a two-month lay-off because of a calf muscle tear, believes that it is a huge opportunity to play for Hyderabad Hunters in the next month’s Premier Badminton League. This is more so as the timing of the high-profile event gives him the oppurtunity to regain his form and break into the top-10 in the world rankings.

Speaking to the media at the promotional event of his team here on Thursday, the 29-year-old Kashyap, now ranked 15, said he is fully fit and raring to go. “I must say that it is a huge honour to play for my home team in the PBL and also the fact that I will be using this wonderful championship to move closer to the qualification mark for the 2016 Rio Olympics (cut-off is said to June 2016),” he said.

“I know it is not going to be easy to break into the top 10 again but certainly not impossible. And, I have been putting in a lot of effort to regain my peak fitness levels and also raise the bar in the coming days on the court,” said a smiling Kashyap, who will be playing alongside former World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei for the Hunters.

“Yes, it is great to play with someone like Lee. You can learn so many things. Well, 2012 London Olympics was long back and I am already gunning for a berth in the next year’s Olympics. So, I just want to forget that loss to Lee in the men’s singles quarterfinal in London,” Kashyap remarked.

'Indians to watch out for'

“The quality of the league will be of a very high standard. India has so many good players, who figure in the top 20 in both men’s and women’s singles, the doubles pairs are also doing well. So you have to watch out for the Indians this time around,” the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist said.

“We hope to win the championship, quite naturally. The team is full of confidence and has players who can rise up to expectations,” he said about the Hunters’ prospects.

“It is great for Indian badminton that even men’s singles players like Kidambi Srikanth, H. S. Prannoy, have emerged on the scene and are a force to reckon with. Having trained with them since their younger days, I have always known that they are a bundle of talent, who can spearhead the Indian challenge in the days to come,’ the champion shuttler pointed out.

Coach confident

For his part, Hunters head coach J. Rajender doesn’t believe that women’s singles would be a weak link in the team, given the fact that it will be the young Supanida Katethong of Thailand who will don the mantle in this category. “We hope for some pleasant surprises from the younger members of this team like recent world juniors finalist A. S. S. Siril Varma, J. Meghana, Satwik Sai Raj besides the doubles players of repute like the 2008 Olympics doubles gold medallist Markis Kido, former World No.1 in men’s doubles Carsten Mogensen and Kidambi Nandagopal,” he explained.

Dr. V. R. K. Rao, CMD of Agile Group, which owns the Hyderabad Hunters, says that they take pride in the fact that the team has the highest number of Indian players – seven. “We wanted to own this team to represent the city which is virtually the capital of Indian badminton,” he remarked.

The foreign players of the team will be joining the team in Mumbai before the League commences.