The 16th tie in the 2020 edition of the Premier Badminton League saw hosts Hyderabad Hunters taking on Mumbai Rockets at the GMC Balayogi SATS Indoor Stadium. The home side came up with a fabulous comeback to seal the tie 4-3. The star of the day was the teenager Priyanshu Rajawat, who by pulling off a big upset, revived his team and gave them a much-needed victory.
The contest between the two teams kicked off with a relatively low-key men’s doubles contest. The Hunters’ duo of England’s Ben Lane and Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov took on Rockets’ South Korean team of Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang. The match resulted in an easy victory for the latter in two straight games with the scoreline reading 15-10, 15-8.
The second match saw local favorite Parupalli Kashyap representing the Rockets facing off against the home team's Malaysian star Daren Liew in a trump match for the Rockets. Both the singles players have been trying hard in the last few months to stay relevant in the international men’s singles circuit. Playing at home though, Kashyap easily disposed off his rival 15-8, 15-13. The home side, down 0-3 in the tie, were staring down the barrel now and needed a victory in the next match.
Then came the biggest match of the day – in terms of star power – as World Champion Pusarla Venkata Sindhu took on her compatriot Shriyanshi Pardeshi in the home team's trump match. The latter had no realistic chance of winning, being ranked 371 in the world, but would have been hoping for a good morale-boosting effort against the queen of Indian badminton. Sindhu, the Hyderabad teams’ skipper, was in no mood to relent and sealed the match without giving much of an opportunity to her opponent. The scoreline of 15-5, 15-10 is a testament to Sindhu’s domination.
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The victory by the World Champion kept her team in the tie, but it seemed that would just be temporary. She needed the young Priyanshu Rajawat to stand up and deliver with the pressure on him in the men’s singles contest against Rockets’ Lee Dong Keun. On paper, this promised to be a lop-sided contest in favor of the Korean. Keun is ranked 49 in the world while Rajawat is 283.
But the young Indian, who turned 18 the day prior to the tie, rose to the occasion in a most incredible manner to upset Keun defeating him 15-13, 15-9, thereby keeping his team in the tie. The scores were now level at 3-3 and the home side had registered a great comeback from the brink of defeat. It all boiled down to the last match of the day – Vladimir Ivanov and N Sikki Reddy of Hunters against Kim Sa Rang and Pia Bernadeth of Rockets.
The Hyderabad side now had the momentum and were not going to look back in the mixed doubles encounter. Ivanov, along with his Indian partner, avenged his defeat earlier in the tie by beating the Mumbai pair 15-8, 15-8. An incredible comeback win was achieved.
Though this was a bottom of the table contest, it produced some great action and saved the home team from holding the wooden spoon position at least temporarily. They are second from the bottom with 10 points while their opponents are languishing at the base. They also have 10 points but a lesser number of wins and higher number of losses. It was a desperately needed win for Sindhu’s team that keeps their slim qualification hopes alive.