Indian Badminton League: Match of the Day – Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa
The inaugural Indian Badminton League begins today in New Delhi, when the Delhi Smashers entertain the Pune Pistons at the Siri Fort Stadium. Being the first match of the tournament, there is bound to be some nerves and pressure on the players as they step onto the court.
The match of the day of course will be the mixed doubles encounter which will see captains Jwala Gutta of the Delhi Smashers and Ashwini Ponnappa of the Pune Pistons representing their respective franchises. Jwala will be partnering with V.Diju while Ashwini is most likely to team up with Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen.
The two doubles specialists have had a bit of a rough ride in the recent past. Much to their dismay, both Jwala and Ashwini learnt a day after the players’ auction that their base prices had been halved from $50,000 to $25,000, without their consent. That move by the IBL council had resulted in them being bought for a much lower value as compared to some of the other icon players.
The pair have also separated at the national level and have chosen to play with different partners after having had much success in each other’s company. They had won the Gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games while also winning the country’s only women’s doubles medal in history, when they took the Bronze at the 2011 World Championships.
After their opening round loss in the 2012 Olympics, Jwala took a break from the sport, even featuring in a Telugu movie during that period, while Ashwini decided to partner Pragnya Gadre, with whom her results have been sub-par so far. There has been talk that the duo is looking to get back together sometime in the near future.
Jwala and Diju have been quite successful for India playing mixed doubles. They had tournament wins at the Bitburger Open championship in Germany as well as a Grand Prix Open title at the Chinese Taipei Open in 2009. So, with each of them familiar with the other, the team is expected to do well for the Smashers.
Dane Fischer Nielsen is ranked 4th in the Mixed Doubles world rankings with his partner Christinna Pedersen and is one of top active mixed doubles players. If Ashwini and Nielsen can get their act together quickly, they may just develop into one of the most dangerous mixed doubles teams in the tournament.
Prediction: Jwala Gutta has taken some time out from the game and is returning after a prolonged absence, while Ashwini Ponnappa and Joachim Fischer Nielsen would be playing together for the first time. This looks a tight one to call and could go either way.