Hyderabad: The troika of Hyderabad Hunters – Rajiv Ouseph, B Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma – went through a gruelling two-hour session early Thursday morning under the watchful eyes of their team coach J Rajendra Kumar at the SAI-Gopichand Badminton Academy here in Gachibowli.
Having arrived in city for the second season of the Premier Badminton League only on previous night, England’s top men’s shuttler Rajiv was back to the business.
Brimming with confidence, the World No.10 player feels that the Hunters’ have a balanced side and the presence of Carolina Marin, the Olympic gold medallist, in their ranks makes them one of the strongest in the pool. “I think Hunters are a very strong side. We have Carolina Marin.
She is probably the best women’s singles player. We have the best men’s doubles players in Tan Boon Heong and Wee Kiong Tan. We have good depth in men’s singles too with Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma who are very good. We can change around the composition if we need to. But the whole league is very strong so we need to see how we start,” he says.
Being the member of title winning Delhi Acers last season, Rajiv has the added advantage. Having played under pressure of final, he feels that the experience will come in handy. “The big thing from last season was the Trump matches. The extra point you get with the Trump match is quite important. Even if you lose the tie but the extra point from Trump match can be decisive. I just enjoyed the whole season last year. It was nice experience and hoping to use that experience,” he adds.
He feels that the new format of 11-point scoring system is good for the crowd. “It is very unpredictable. Favourites can be surprised. It has entertainment value for the spectators. But for a player you need to be concentrating on each point. If you lose two or three points then is one set gone in no time. Our target will be to get into the top four in the beginning. And if that happens anything can happen from there on. If you reach there you can then start thinking about winning the title.’’
B Sai Praneeth, the second Hunters’ singles star, too echoes similar feelings. “Everyone has equal chance. If the game scoring was 21 or best of three, I could have named one team as favourites. But in this format, there are many chances of upset. Many top players can lose. It is very fast game. It is the matter of 15 to 20 minutes. Whoever plays better game they will win.”
However, Praneeth, who earlier had shocked former World champions Lee Chong Wei and Taufiq Hidayat, feels that they will handle the game better. “We have been practicing the 11-point game for quite some time now. During the sessions, we play 11-point games. It is different. You can’t play your natural game like you play in 21-game. You have to start fast and be quick and can’t relax for even a one point,” he adds.
Talking about the competition, Rajiv says: “Men’s singles this year is very tough than last year. We have Victor (Axelsen), Jan O Jogensen and other top Indian guys playing. This is why you play the game, to play against best players and win in these sorts of competitions.”
Sameer Verma, the second Indian in the singles category, who shot to fame by stunning World No. 3 Jan O Jorgensen this year, feels that playing with top players will help them. “You will get so much to learn from playing alongside and against top players. You will know how they train and what are the tactics they employ for their games. In a way PBL is very good experience for us,” he adds.
Hunters will open their campaign on the opening day on January 1 against Chennai Smashers.