The real fireworks of the inaugural Indian Badminton League will begin on Thursday when Hyderabad Hotshots take on Awadhe Warriors in Delhi. That encounter will see teenage sensation PV Sindhu (Awadhe) take on the queen of Indian badminton, Saina Nehwal (Hyderabad).
Who will win the high-profile clash?
The badminton world seems divided. Doubles specialist and commonwealth gold medallist Jwala Gutta feels Sindhu will come out victorious. Speaking to NDTV, she said: "It's always good to have somebody new winning. And Sindhu is riding high on her world championship bronze. So, it will be good to see Sindhu giving a good performance on Thursday."
World No. 17 Parupalli Kashyap, who will be playing for the Bangalore team Banga Beats, disagrees with Gutta. Kashyap told NDTV: "Sindhu will no doubt be fresh from her world badminton performance, but Saina has more experience. It will be a tough fight no doubt, but I will give more percentage of victory to Saina because she is more experienced."
Ashwini Ponappa, who is reuniting with Gutta to play doubles for India, chose to sit on the fence saying, "I can't say who will come out on top. Both are playing great...of course, Saina is a little bit more experienced."
Saina and Sindhu hail from Hyderabad and are products of Pullela Gopichand's badminton academy. However, the two have never played against each other in a competitive match. Like a true and fair coach, Gopichand says: "It is not Saina or Sindhu, it is Saina and Sindhu. I always tell it openly that when both of you are shuttling, I am nowhere in the stadium. It is then up to both of you. I just wish in years to come, they will play a lot of finals against each other, so we are assured of gold and silver, irrespective of who wins or loses.''
Sindhu, of course, is making no predictions. The 18-year-old who defeated two higher ranked Chinese players in Guangzhou last week, said: "Saina is a great player. She is experienced and playing very well. I will just play my game and give 100 per cent."