After 22 days of sizzling action and some edge-of-the-seat moments, we are finally on the last day of the Premier Badminton League Season 4 (PBL 2018-19). And what a clash it promises to be!
Two-time runners-up Mumbai Rockets meet last season's runners-up Bengaluru Raptors in a riveting clash that will witness a new champion being crowned. While Bengaluru are led by the India No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth, the Mumbai brigade has the India No. 2 Sameer Verma among their ranks. It will be fascinating to watch who between these two will have the last laugh on Sunday night.
The two teams did meet on Tuesday with the Raptors posting a commanding 5-0 win. Even though it should boost Bengaluru's confidence, they need to be wary of the depth of talent in the Mumbai squad.
Besides, the Rockets have slightly more experience, having reached the final on two occasions. The Bengaluru franchise, on the other hand, gave their all in the 2017-18 season only to be pipped to the post by the Hyderabad Hunters.
A year on, they have got a golden opportunity to redeem themselves and erase the memories from 12 months ago. And this time they will have the support of the home crowd.
The Raptors will, of course, look up to their talisman, Srikanth to guide them in this all-important face-off. The former World No. 1 has remained unbeaten in seven matches and has looked very much the world beater that he was in his scintillating 2017 season.
Suffice to say, that the World No. 18 Anders Antonsen of Mumbai has an uphill task ahead of him. He did keep it close when he met Srikanth in their January 8 battle, but the Indian still knew how to raise his level at the very end that awarded him the win.
Along with Srikanth, Sai Praneeth has looked equally good and was a big reason why the Raptors were able to blank Mumbai in their league showdown. Sai held his nerves to come back from a third game deficit and snap Sameer Verma's winning streak.
Verma, of course, will be the driving force for the Rockets once again. The World No. 12 has lost just one match in seven outings and is in the mood to continue his imperious 2018 form. If he can turn the tables on Sai this time, Mumbai might still harbour hopes of winning the title for the first time.
It's the women's singles department where the Raptors have the edge, thanks to the presence of World No. 59 Vu Thi Trang. The Vietnamese beat Shreyanshi Pardeshi in three games in their last match and would look for a repeat.
Bengaluru have the upper hand in men's doubles while Mumbai look stronger in mixed. Former world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan got the better of Mumbai's Lee Yong Dae and Kim Gi Jung. The World No. 9 pair should once again be the favourites in this clash.
Commonwealth Games silver medallists Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith haven't had a season to remember, losing all their seven matches. Pia Zebadiah and Kim Gi Jung of the Rockets would look to make the most of this opportunity.
Here’s all the information you need to know about the PBL encounter
Tournament name: Premier Badminton League Season 4
Venue: Kanteerava Indoor Stadium, Bengaluru
Date: Sunday, January 13, 2019
Time: 7 pm IST
Head-to-head: Bengaluru 2-2 Mumbai
Channel: Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD
Live streaming: hotstar.com