New Delhi, Dec 22
If the Mumbai Rockets are ready for the launch their Season 4 campaign in the Vodafone Premier Badminton League (PBL) against Delhi Dashers, Ahmedabad Smash Masters are equally upbeat about their chances against North Eastern Warriors in the first doubleheader of the fourth edition at the NSCI courts on Sunday.
The gala opening preceding the clash on Saturday between new entrant Pune 7 Aces and Hyderabad Hunters notwithstanding, Mumbai Rockets are feeling at home and expect their team to do a thorough job of proving with a perfect start for them. In their efforts, they will also bank on the lung-power of the team supporters.
The doubleheader would witness 30 tough matches with each contest having five ties, guaranteeing a grand feast for the Sunday crowd that is expected to flock into the stadium.
Mumbai Rockets, who have a good mix of Indian and foreign players, including Beijing Olympics champion in mixed doubles, Korean shuttler Lee Yong Dae, and they will look forward to carrying their form in their last meeting against the Dashers in the previous edition when they beat them 4-1.
The highest paid Korean, who has been the pillar of strength for the last two seasons with Rockets, sounded confident about a good start to their campaign tomorrow. “We start our season from Mumbai and I am really looking forward to it. I have been associated with the Mumbai franchise for the past two seasons and I am confident of a good outing this year, especially with a strong team to back us in doubles and men singles, our mainstay,” said Lee.
Equally upbeat was the H.S. Prannoy led Delhi Dashers who felt that their strength lay in a combined effort of the team, with Tommy Sugiarto. “We are playing in Mumbai against the home team. The pressure will be equal for both teams despite the crowd supporting the Rockets,” said Prannoy.
But he does realize the importance of the team getting a good start. “It’s going to be crucial for Delhi to start on a winning note and keep the momentum going. We have a balanced team with Sugiarto and Chai Biao’s experience adding value. I am confident of a good start.”
NE Warriors positive
The talent-oozing North East Warriors, with London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal as its spearhead, have a tough task at hand when they take on Ahmedabad Smash Masters in the late evening clash of the day.
The experienced Saina, who got married recently to P. Kashyap, would want to begin with a clean slate in the new season with a new team and for that she would largely depend on the decent mix of experience and talented team, Additionally, the motivation for them would be to avenge the narrow 3-4 loss they suffered at the hands of Smash Masters in the last edition. The Ahmedabad franchise, on the other hand, would want to carry the psychological edge they have against NEW.
But they are, apart from Saina, relying on the combination of Yoo Yeon Song and Kim Ha-na to provide win in the doubles and Tian Houwei in singles attack. “I am really happy with the team we have, it is a good mix of experience and talent. We have Yoo Yeon Song and Kim Ha-na in the doubles department and Tian Houwei in singles. I am sure we will put up a strong display and play like the real Warriors,” said a confident Saina.
Ahmedabad’s Viktor Axelsen, the only player to have a cent percent record with the highest number of trump matches (3) in the previous edition, knows the significance of giving his team a strong opening with all tenacity. “It’s important to start strong and stick with your winnings ways, especially when you are playing a league. We have shaped up a competitive squad and have requisite firepower in our attack. NE Warriors, too, have some of the finest shuttlers and this surely will be a keenly-contested tie. But we would like to take one match at a time with a positive start to our PBL4 campaign tomorrow,” said Axelsen.
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