With a new look team and a new name, the franchise from Delhi is raring to go in the third season of the Premier Badminton League (PBL). The Delhi Acers have been rechristened as the Delhi Dashers this time and are endowed with a well-balanced squad, that can very much help them in their quest for a second title in this league.
The Season 1 champions have stars pretty much in every department, which augments their chances of winning, at least on paper.
Having two top-25 players in men’s singles certainly increases their strength in that discipline. Wong Wing Ki Vincent is World No. 15 and made it to the semi-finals of the Denmark Open, losing to India’s Srikanth Kidambi. The former Vietnam Open champion will have able support from the Chinese ace, Tian Houwei.
The southpaw has been a former World No. 6 and won the China Masters this year, besides making it to the quarter-finals of the World Championships, where he succumbed to Chen Long. The last quarter of the season has not been kind to the 25-year-old, though and he ended the BWF season on a five-match losing streak.
Houwei might not have been in sizzling form coming into the PBL, but he definitely possesses enough talent to use this platform to get back his lost confidence. Needless to say, that could make him dangerous for Delhi’s opponents.
Commonwealth Games bronze medallist RMV Gurusaidutt is on the comeback trail after an ankle injury and subsequent surgery kept him out of action for nearly a year. He resumed competitive play only in October and has won the Bulgarian International and finished as runner-up at the Welsh International since then. Should his services be required, the former World No. 19 could definitely come in handy.
Their women’s singles challenge is led by the Korean superstar, Sung Ji Hyun. She has reached a career-high ranking of No. 2 and is currently perched at the sixth position. By her lofty standards, the 26-year-old has had a quiet sort of a year. In the Superseries circuit, she reached a final only once, which was in Indonesia.
She finished the season with three losses on the trot at the Dubai World Superseries Finals. However, that does not make her any less of a threat than she already is for all other women’s singles players at the PBL. She has got a taste of PBL's vibrant atmosphere before and absolutely knows what it takes to raise her level in such a competition.
19-year-old Shreyanshi Pardeshi is the other player in this discipline and she can’t ask for any better opportunity to learn from the game’s biggest stars.
Doubles departments look compact
The men’s doubles department is probably the strongest for the Dashers. They have got the seasoned Russian pair of Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov, who is eighth in the latest world rankings. The Russian Grand Prix champions are PBL veterans and have been a part of every PBL season.
The Delhi franchise perhaps made the cleverest move during the auctions when they went for Ashwini Ponnappa, who had been a part of the Bengaluru team. The former Commonwealth Games gold medallist will not only bring all her expertise and knowledge, but her presence simply bolsters Delhi’s title-winning chances even further.
And with Ponnappa, there will be Pranaav Jerry Chopra, who is one half of India’s No. 1 mixed doubles pair. The two will aim to keep a clean sheet for Delhi in mixed doubles.
Arathi Sara Sunil has been making a mark in the international circuit, although her forte is women’s doubles.
Men’s singles - Wong Wing Ki Vincent, Tian Houwei, RMV Gurusaidutt
Women’s singles - Sung Ji Hyun, Shreyanshi Pardeshi
Men’s doubles - Vladimir Ivanov, Ivan Sozonov
Mixed doubles - Ashwini Ponnappa, Pranaav Jerry Chopra, Arathi Sara Sunil
Coach: Ajay Kanwar