PBL 2020: Hyderabad Hunters squad analysis for Premier Badminton League Season 5
- With Sindhu leading the charge for the 2017 PBL champs, the Hyderabad Hunters are a definite title favourites.
The needle on the excitement radar is on a steep rise with the Premier Badminton League 2020 due to begin from the 20th of January. The 21-day league will be one big, star-studded affair with five Olympic medallists and 15 World Championships medallists ready to take part in the epic badminton showdown.
Drawing utmost attention even at the outset of the league are the Hyderabad Hunters, with team captain and India's ace shuttler PV Sindhu grabbing eyeballs by becoming the costliest player to be retained by a team for this edition.
The proceedings of the tournament will begin in Chennai at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium before they carry on to the Babu Banarasi Das Academy at Lucknow and finally culminate at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium at Hyderabad.
The expectations will be sky-high from the Hyderabad Hunters squad as they have quite intelligently procured a motley mix of strong and capable players who will prove to be crucial to the team's campaign this season.
On the men's singles side, the Hyderabad Hunters have in their possession the services of Malaysian shuttler and former World No.10, Daren Liew. The 2012 French Open Super Series winner, Liew is a wise choice for the Hyderabad Hunters as the Malaysian player is known to step up at the crucial moments and deliver.
Alongside Liew will be Sourabh Verma, who has enjoyed a brilliant run in 2019 after having won the Hyderabad Open and the Vietnam Open, before finishing as a finalist at the Syed Modi International tournament. One of India's brightest badminton players currently, Verma is a quiet and dedicated hard-worker who is keen on seeing positive results for his team.
While Verma and Liew have ample experience, 19-year-old Kiran George is a promising new boy on the circuit. The reigning Junior National Champion, the Kerala boy is also touted to be a youngster who might stun us with his racket skills. With such a good mix of players, the men's half looks steady and ready to cause damage.
With the charge set to be led by 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist PV Sindhu on the women's singles side, the excitement, as well as the expectation bar, will be at an all-time high.
Playing for the team that represents her hometown, Sindhu will need to shoulder the hopes of the Hyderabad Hunters. After claiming the gold medal and becoming the World Champion at Basel in 2019, Sindhu has not been able to quite deliver consistently as much as she would have liked.
The PBL will offer her the opportunity to spar with her arch-rivals like Marin or Tai Tzu Ying and should act as the perfect warm-up in the pre-Olympics months and a majority of the remaining section of the BWF season.
Giving Sindhu support will be fellow Andhra girl, Ruthvika Shivani Gadde. A former World No. 49, the 22-year-old Gadde has not enjoyed a good season of late but one hopes that she will draw inspiration from Sindhu and rise to the occasion when under pressure.
Moving to the doubles section, the men's side looks solid with the presence of 23-year-old England player Sean Vendy and Russian shuttler Vladimir Ivanov ready to join forces for the all-important doubles ties.
Ivanov, at 32 years of age continues to be a dominating player and can be banked upon by the Hyderabad Hunters. A former All England Champion in doubles, Ivanov is going to play an instrumental role for the team when he pairs up with the young Vendy.
On the women's doubles front, the key player will be N. Sikki Reddy, one of India's most reliable players when it comes to women's doubles. Gold medalist from the Mixed team event and a bronze medalist from the women's doubles event at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Telangana's Sikki Reddy will have a lot to deliver. Most recently, she returned with another gold medal from the South Asian Games 2019, which confirms that she is in great form heading into the tournament.
Truth be told, the success of the Hyderabad Hunters will largely depend on how PV Sindhu fares. The team is by and large dependent on her performance as she is the marquee player for the side.
Without Sindhu, the Hyderabad Hunters do not boast of a well-rounded unit, but with the lanky Hyderabadi shuttler in the squad, they can be easily considered as one of the title favourites. With a fairly balanced team representing the Hunters, they will hope for a repeat of their 2017 win and Sindhu will have a large role to play in it.
Here's the full squad for the Hyderabad Hunters
Women's Singles: Pusarla V Sindhu, Ruthvika Shivani Gadde
Men's Singles: Sourabh Verma, Kiran George, Daren Liew
Men's Doubles: Sean Vendy, Ben Lane, Vladimir Ivanov
Women's Doubles: N. Sikki Reddy
Published 18 Jan 2020, 00:07 IST