remier Badminton League: Gurusai Dutt powered Mumbai Rockets ‘trump’ Saina-less Awadhe Warriors

Perhaps Awadhe Warriors never quite recovered from the loss of Saina Nehwal as they surrendered the opening encounter of Premier Badminton League (PBL) against Mumbai Rockets by 2-1 on points at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Indoor Stadium, NSCI in Mumbai on Saturday.

Gurusai Dutt

Incidentally, this was the first time the ‘Trump Match’ rule came into effect, which allows the the two teams to choose a ‘trump card’ or a tie before the start of the first match. If the respective team wins the trump match chosen by them, then they would get 2 points while a loss would result in deduction of one point from their kitty.

In the opening encounter, Gurusai Dutt lost the first game but came back stronger than ever in the second and third games to seal the tie 14-15, 15-10, 15-8 in his favour. In the first game, Praneeth took to a 13-6 lead and looked set to bag the tie with ease but the home team boy fought back and at one point of time the it was 13-10 in favour of Praneeth. Dutt then equalled the scores at 14-14 before losing the first game in the deciding point when his backhand prod went wide.

In the second game Dutt raced to a 8-3 lead before being pegged back by Praneeth to 9-7 but the 47th ranked player ran clear of his opponent by sealing the game 15-10. In the deciding game, Dutt didn’t give a glimmer of hope to Praneeth and the latter looked fatigued as he smashed a return on to the net to hand the opening tie to Mumbai.

Gurusai Dutt said after the match  “It was a tough match as he won the first set. But I knew I had to come back and win the game for my team. This win will help us in the next four games and I am happy that I stood upto the expectations of my team. It’s a proud moment as the first game of PBL is in our kitty.”

Mathias Boe and Vladimir Ivanov of Mumbai Rockets then won against Cai Yun and Hendra Gunawan by 15-11, 15-11. Awadhe Warriors had incidentally decided to select this match as their ‘Trump Match’. The Denmark duo playing for Mumbai completely dominated the tie from the start as they never looked out of control in the opening game with all their smashes and lofts falling in place. At 14-11, Yun and Gunawan tried to sneak into the contest but the latter deposited the shuttle in the net as the partisan crowd danced in glory.

It was a much closer contest in the second game where Yun and Gunawan fought back to a 11-12 score but then the men from Denmark reeled off three pints in a row to take the game by a 15-11 margin. Thus the result after two ties stood at Rockets 2 and Warriors -1.

The Ruthvika Gadde of Mumbai faced off against G Vrushali of Awadhe Warriors and a straight  game victory for Gadde sealed the whole fixture of the day in Mumbai’s favour as anything which would happen in the next to ties won’t affect the final outcome. 

Vrushali belted out some quick smashes but Ruthvika held her nerve equalled the score at 13-13 and then won the next two pints to take the first game by 15-13. In the second, it was Ruthvika all the way from the start as once she raced ahead of Vrushali after being 6-5, she was unmatchable. The game was won by her by 15-10 margin.

R. Gadde said “It was not an easy match. Though I won it convincingly but she gave a tough fight and made me earn my points. I enjoyed the game and I am happy we have won all three games till now. I hope we end the day by taking all games in our favor.”

The most exciting clash of the evening was the next one between HS Pranoy of Rockets and S Tanongsak of Warriors. The points tally at this stage was Mumbai 3, Awadhe -1 but the visitors got some respite from the hammering as the man  from Thailand recorded an upset 15-12, 14-15, 15-14 win over the Indian and managed to deduct a point from the hosts’ kitty as this was their ‘Trump Match’.

The left handed shuttler surprised Pranoy with his excellent returns and nullified the threat of the ferocious smashes of the latter in the first game. Pranoy was leading the game 11-10 at one point but some acrobatic returns from the baseline by Tanongsak helped him to a 15-12 game.

The second game also followed the same course of action as the first with Pranoy leading 8-6 at the change of ends but the tie slowly but steadily slipped away from his grasp as the visitor sneaked ahead by 14 -12 margin. Undeterred by what was happening, Pranoy won three points in a row including the deciding point to take the tie to the third game.

The crowd got into the act seeing the magical revival of their player and Pranoy responded with equal spirit as he lead 8-4 at the change of ends. However, things changed considerable after the break as Tanongsak  equalled the game at 10-10 and then went ahead by 14-12. Pranoy conjured up another turnaround levelling the scores at 14-14 and just when everyone thought that he would win it, his uncontrolled lob went over the baseline and Tanongsak gave a shrill cry as he had won the 15-14. This resulted in the points tally being altered to Mumbai 2, Awadhe 0.

The inconsequential mixed double fixture of Kamila Juhl and Vladimir Ivanov of Rockets versus Bodin Issara and Christinna Pedersen went down to the wire again as the visitors won 15-9, 14-15, 15-14 to increase their tally to 1 point while the hosts ended up with 2 points.