PBL: Too little, too late for Delhi Dashers

Languishing in the bottom with just two points after five ties, Delhi is already out of contention for a knockout place. Unfortunately, the win came a little too late for the Delhi team as it beat Hyderabad Hunters 4-3.

Delhi Dashers' H.S. Prannoy in action against Hyderabad Hunters in the Premier Badminton League.   -  Special Arrangement

Delhi Dashers’ H.S. Prannoy registered his first win at the Premier Badminton League this season at Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday; Dashers won its first trump match of the league through doubles pair of Biao Chai and Maneepong Jongjitand Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto completed the team’s first tie win of the season. 

Ironically, the victories came in Dashers’ last assignment in the fourth edition of the Premier Badminton League and against table topper Hyderabad Hunters.

Languishing in the bottom with just two points after five ties, Delhi was already out of contention for a knockout place. Unfortunately, it all came a little too late for the Delhi team.  It won the tie 4-3.

As it happened; Hyderabad vs Delhi

In the first match of the day, H.S. Prannoy registered his first win this season against Hunters’ Rahul Yadav Chittaboina.  

Struggling with a knee injury and a gastroesophageal reflux disease, Prannoy stuck to a defensive game to conserve energy. After being rested for Dashers’ previous game against Pune 7 Aces, Prannoy seemed to be in a much better shape in his match against 20-year-old Rahul Yadav.

No, Prannoy did move around the court fluidly or did not play flamboyant strokes or hard smashes, but he put his wrists to good use to come up with winners. It also helped that Rahul committed a lot of errors in his eagerness to drive hard those smashes. With a fuss-free game, Prannoy took the first game 15-10.

Rahul, enjoying the comfort of a top spot and an assured place in the semifinals, went for his shots and was a lot more successful in the second game.

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Finding that Prannoy — his right knee strapped — was slow with his movement to the right, targeted the back corner to win points. He yelped with joy at reaching the mid-game break in the second with an 8-4 lead.

Prannoy conceded a lot of points with soft touches while attempting drop shots. Often, the shuttle failed to cross the net. 

Though Prannoy tried his best to make a comeback, the 20-year-old Rahul pocketed the second game 15-9 and took the match to the decider. Prannoy, seemingly tired of losing, played a little more aggressively in the third, widening his selection of shots to go one better and finish the campaign with a 15-10, 9-15, 15-12 win.

Shortly after the match, Prannoy announced that he will be taking a two-month break to recover and targeted a March return.   

Delhi Dashers’ Chai Biao and Maneepong Jongjit then registered an 8-15, 15-9, 15-8 victory in their trump match against Hunters’ Arun George and Bodin Isara. With hunters relying heavily on Isara, the China-Thai combine were able to collectively win points and register the team’s first trump-match win of the season.

P.V. Sindhu, playing the third match of the tie, restored some order with a quick 15-11, 15-9 win over Russia’s Evgeniya Kosetskaya in her trump match for Hyderabad Hunters to reduce the deficit.  

Hyderabad Hunters' P.V. Sindhu in action against Delhi Dashers' Evgeniya Kosetskaya.   -  K. Murali Kumar

 

Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto then clinched the tie for the Dashers with a 15-6, 15-11 win over Dutchman Mark Caljouw and end the campaign on a high.

Cheered on by Sania Mirza from the guest box, Hyderabad Hunters’ Sindhu set about her challenge against Russia’s Evgeniya Kosetskaya in earnest. The champion player, enriched in confidence after finally clinching a gold, at BWF World Tour Finals in December, stuck to her top game to overcome a spirited challenge from the Russian, a European Championship runner-up.

To the Russian’s credit, she was able to match Sindhu with her smashes and quick coverage of the court, but Sindhu was far superior with her front-court game and was more successful at finishing points with minimal errors.

A 31-shot rally proved to be the highlight of the match, Sindhu winning it with a winning smash at the baseline corner. 

It was a trademark Sindhu rally comprising multiple back and forth movements and awe-inspiring deep retrieves at the net. 

What also helped Sindhu stay on top was her ability to change from defense to attack in the blink of an eye to catch the Russia off guard. She won crucial points and cruised to a comfortable straight-game win, justifying that extra seconds of cheer from starry-eyed young fans rooting for from the gallery.

An afternoon start proved no deterrent to see Sindhu play as the stadium registered the maximum footfall for the week.

In an inconsequential match in terms of the tie,  the mixed doubles pair of Kim Sa Rang and Won Eom Hye collected the final point for Hyderabad Hunters and Chia Hsin Lee and Wang Sijie.