A case of ‘Winning the battle and losing the war’ for Bengaluru Top Guns
It’s an odd situation that Bengaluru Top Guns find themselves in after three ties in the Premier Badminton League. They are currently 5th in the league table with 6 points and have played 15 matches so far despite losing all three ties by close margins. The ‘Trump Match’ rule for a bonus point hasn’t worked in favour of the Top Guns with two of three trump matches being lost including last night’s upset of Captain Kidambi Srikanth by Tanongsak from Awadhe Warriors.
With a day’s break after facing Awadhe Warriors on their home turf, the Top Guns travel to New Delhi to face the home team there. The Delhi Acers have played two ties so far and have lost both with a 3-2 margin to Awadhe Warriors and Chennai Smashers. The home team will have confidence in the fact that they are placed higher on the league table than Bengaluru, giving them a slight edge in the contest in New Delhi. They also boast of quality singles talent in India’s Ajay Jayaram, England’s Rajiv Ouseph and Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto. According to Bengaluru’s coach, Arvind Bhat, fans in Delhi will see possible contests between Sameer Verma or Anand Pawar against Ajay Jayaram while Top Guns captain Srikanth could face the Indonesian. Unfortunately, Srikanth will not be selected for the ‘Trump Match’ with the rule allowing a single player to be selected twice for the ‘Trump Match’ in the league stage. This forces the Top Guns to change their strategy regarding the selection of players for the ‘Trump Match’ but coach Arvind Bhat is confident that if asked, any of the other players can step up to do the job.
The Srikanth-Sugiarto encounter could turn out to be an interesting one with the Indian ranked 9 compared to Sugiarto’s 11thrank. But experience could become a factor with the Indonesian leading 3-1 in the head-to-head record over Srikanth.
The most exciting match-up of the night should be the mixed doubles category where Bengaluru’s Ashwini Ponnappa will take centre stage against Delhi’s Gabrielle Adcock. Both players have faced each other on the international circuit with Ashwini holding a 2-1 edge over Adcock in the women’s doubles arena while Gabby Adcock along with her husband Chris Adcock (playing for Chennai Smashers) has beaten Ashwini in three separate meetings in the mixed doubles arena. Ashwini herself will have to be at her best as her best partner in Joachim Fischer Nielsen will not be available for the Top Guns until their home game in Bengaluru. It remains to be seen if Robert Blair will once again take her side or Khim Wah Lim, as against Awadhe Warriors, will be her partner. Ashwini earned her first win in the PBL playing with the Malaysian showing a possible left right combination might be the way to go for the Top Guns.
After three rather close and edgy losses for the Bengaluru Top Guns, one could assume that confidence and morale might be low in the camp. But aside from the fact that there are no injury concerns for Arvind Bhat, there are definite positives to be taken from the performances for the Top Guns. There have been great individual performances including Srikanth’s win over Lee Chong Wei and Suo Di’s win over Han Li but they have been unavailable to close out the final results. The equation to qualify for the semi-finals is simple – win both ties and secure a top four position.
Ultimately, it comes down to how the captain performs on the given night. While it wasn’t noticeable that Srikanth seemed disturbed by a particular line call from the umpire, even the greats seem to have their off days. Whether he faces Sugiarto or Jayaram is still in contention, but that surprising loss doesn’t seem to have dented his confidence in the slightest.
After the tie against Delhi Acers, the Bengaluru Top Guns then have a 5 day break before they host the Chennai Smashers in their home ground in Bengaluru. The Top Guns are planning on using this extended break for extra training sessions and preparing well against a strong Chennai squad along with promotions in the city and further media commitments.
The Bengaluru Top Guns take on the Delhi Acers on the 8th of January, 2016 at 6:30pm.