Hyderabad fireworks

Hotshots’ spearhead… Saina Nehwal poses with the ‘Player of the Tournament’ trophy.-VIVEK BENDRE

Steered by the supremely confident Saina Nehwal, Hyderabad Hotshots scored a thumping 3-1 victory against Awadhe Warriors to lift the glittering trophy. G. Viswanath reports.

The pioneering $1 million Vodafone-Indian Badminton League has been a resounding success. The franchise-owned team-format tournament has received an emphatic endorsement from all stakeholders of the game in the country. In all, 84 matches were played and the spectators have expressed in clear-cut manner that they are willing to pay for a quality event.

Former India captain Sanjay Sharma did not get a pass for his mother for the final; he was asked to shell out two grand for a ticket. Reliable sources revealed it was a sell-out crowd at all the six venues, and a pleasantly surprised Badminton Association of India (BAI) officials were happy that their new baby had turned out to be a box office hit.

After a hectic 18-day schedule that featured some high-octane singles and doubles matches and a world-class player like the Malaysian professional, Lee Chong Wei, Hyderabad Hotshots, the pre-tournament favourite, accomplished a wonderful win. Steered by the supremely confident Saina Nehwal, the Hotshots scored a thumping 3-1 victory against Awadhe Warriors in Mumbai to lift the glittering trophy. The Hotshots celebrated the momentous occasion in a lively and dignified manner. The winning team received Rs. 3.25 crore, while Awadhe Warriors took home Rs. 1.75 crore.

The home team, Mumbai Masters, was eliminated in the semi-finals, but the near full house at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Stadium at Worli shed its partisan attitude and goaded both teams. They supported Warriors’ Kidambi Srikanth and Hotshots’ Saina. Both won their matches in style.

Then the doubles pairs V. Shem Goh and Lim Wah Khin (Hotshots) and Markis Kido and Mathias Boe (Warriors) played a variety of attacking strokes from the backcourt and gentle touch shots near the net to thrill the spectators.

Finally, Ajay Jayaram, looking down and out after losing the first game 10-21 and trailing 10-15 in the second, rose like a phoenix to defeat R. M. V. Gurusai Dutt in three games and write a glorious chapter for Hotshots.

One of the gifted youngsters from the Gopi Chand Academy, Gurusai Dutt was put through the wringer in the tournament. He lost to Thailand’s S. Tanongsak, Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov, Vietnam’s Tien Minh Nyugen and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei. His notable win came against Malaysia’s Daren Liew. He also had the satisfaction of stretching Tanongsak and Ivanov to three games.

In spite of such a dismal run in the league, it was Gurusai Dutt who dictated terms with an array of strokes that landed well inside the lines (back and side). He also outwitted Jayaram at the net, especially with the dribble.

Remarkable resilience... Ajay Jayaram of Hyderabad Hotshots celebrates his come-frombehind victory against Gurusai Dutt of Awadhe Warriors.-AFP

Jayaram, who had scored two wins in the league against Tien Minh Nyugen, found his game in tatters before he began retrieving in miraculous fashion. Eventually he emerged the winner. The ratio of scoring points with smash and at the net (7:8) was in Gurusai Dutt’s favour in the first game when compared to Jayaram’s 2:5. However, the late burst by Jayaram changed it to 9:7 in his favour in the second.

India’s rising star P. V. Sindhu, who won the bronze medal at the World Championships recently, was all at sea against a high-class Saina. Awadhe Warriors looked to Sindhu to do something different from the conventional to score an upset win, but Saina, after conceding some points in the first, vanquished her in the second.

“Sindhu played really well and gave her best, but I managed to outwit her. I have been really lucky during the entire League, which enabled me to win all my matches. The League has done a lot of good to the sport. There is a visible improvement in the Indian players as they have had a chance to play against a host of known national and international stars. In the first year itself it has been a great success and it will surely make the game more attractive for players and spectators. And going forward, the IBL will be able to hone more and more talent,” said Saina.

Another key element in Hotshots’ title win was the unexpected victory of its doubles pair, V. Shem Goh and Lim Wah Khim. “The first game was smooth. Boe and Kido tried to be in the front in the second, but we were quick on our feet. We maintained our calm in the third and played the swift shots to win the match,” said Shem Goh.

* * * FOR THE RECORD FINAL

Hyderabad Hotshots beat Awadhe Warriors 3-1 (S. Tanongsuk lost to K. Srikanth 21-12, 21-20; Saina Nehwal beat P. V. Sindhu 21-15, 21-7; V. Shem Goh & Lim Wah Khim beat Markis Kido & Mathias Boe 21-14, 13-21, 11-4; Ajay Jayaram beat R. M. V. Gurusai Dutt 10-21, 21-17,11-7.

SEMI-FINALS

Hyderabad Hotshots beat Pune Pistons 3-0 (Ajay Jayaram beat Tien Minh Nguyen 21-17, 21-11; Saina Nehwal beat Juliane Schenk 21-10, 19-21, 11-8; Goh V. Shem & Wah Lim Khim beat Joachim Fischer Nielsen & Sanave Thomas 16-21, 21-14, 11-7).

Awadhe Warriors beat Mumbai Masters 3-2 (R. M. V. Gurusai Dutt lost to Lee Chong Wei 21-15, 21-7; P. V. Sindhu beat Tine Baun 21-16, 21-13; Markis Kido & Mathias Boe beat B. Sumeet Reddy & Pranav Jerry Chopra 21-15, 21-9; K. Srikanth lost to Vladimir Ivanov 21-20, 21-19; Kido & Pia Bernadet beat Ivanov & Baun 21-19, 21-15).

PRELIMINARIES

Hyderabad Hotshots lost to Banga Beats 2-3; Awadhe Warriors beat Pune Pistons 3-2; Banga Beats lost to Krrish Delhi Smashers 1-4; Awadhe Warriors beat Mumbai Masters 3-2; Pune Pistons beat Banga Beats 4-1; Awadhe Warriors beat Krrish Delhi Smashers 4-1; Hyderabad Hotshots beat Mumbai Masters 3-2; Krrish Delhi Smashers lost to Mumbai Masters 1-4; Hyderabad Hotshots beat Pune Pistons 4-1; Banga Beats beat Awadhe Warriors 4-1; Mumbai Masters lost to Pune Pistons 2-3; Krrish Delhi Smashers beat Hyderabad Hotshots 3-2; Banga Beats lost to Mumbai Masters 2-3; Hyderabad Hotshots beat Awadhe Warriors 3-2; Krrish Delhi Smashers lost to Pune Pistons 2-3.