Is the sun finally shining on Kidambi Srikanth?

Can Kidambi Srikanth build on his PBL form to be in peak confidence by the time the Rio Olympics arrives?

The fistpumps and the determination are back for the India No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth
The fistpumps and the determination are back for the India No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth

Every player hopes that the New Year washes away the bitter memories of the past season and helps to start the new one with a bang. That just might be a reality now for India’s No. 1 men’s singles badminton player Kidambi Srikanth.

With the turn of the year, the World No. 9 now has two big, morale-boosting wins at the 2016 Premier Badminton League (PBL) – one over his good friend HS Prannoy and the other over former World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei. The latter would go a long way in re-inforcing Srikanth’s self-belief and confidence as this is his first ever win of any kind over the two-time Olympic silver medallist. And to think that the Malaysian was on a 15-match winning streak, makes this triumph even more. satisfying for the Indian.

This is a rejuvenated version of the 22-year-old Bengaluru Topguns shuttler who is bubbling with zeal and enthusiasm. This is the Srikanth who took the world by storm when he toppled Lin Dan at the China Open Superseries Premier in 2014.

He is once again the fearless one, who doesn’t stop at anything! There is the quiet determination, the frequent fistpumps, the piercing stare that can send a chill down his opponents’ spine! This is the Srikanth that the Indian fans had waited to see ever since he stole their hearts by winning the India Open Superseries back in March last year.

Unfortunately, the months following that stupendous success were mired in a slump as the Guntur boy struggled with every facet of his game. His famous speed and footwork were sorely missing as he looked clueless even against so many rivals much lower-ranked than him.

There is such an inextricable connection between a player’s conviction and his performance on the court. Consider the woes of the 14-time Grand Slam tennis champion Rafael Nadal’s 2015 season. The Spaniard, who self-admitted to dealing with mental demons, found it hard to connect the ball on the court and his famed forehands went for a toss for much of the season.

It took a long time before he could finally conquer his troubles of the mind and show glimpses of the player that he is known to be. Time and patience are requisites to tide over such situations.

Srikanth’s catastrophic season post his India Open win mirrors so much of Nadal’s mental fragilities from last year. Thrust into the limelight, the shy and unassuming shuttler found it a tedious task to deal with the burden of expectations. Success at an early age has its pitfalls too.

The repeated setbacks robbed him of a vital weapon – his mental fortitude – and he would crumble under the slightest of pressure. Srikanth simply became a pale shadow of himself, making as many as nine pre-quarter-final exits. The world ranking that had reached a career-high of No. 3 in August was down six places to No. 9 as he continued to repeatedly falter after building up big leads.

It was only at the fag end of the year in December that Srikanth could finally show signs of finding his feet on the court again. At the Indonesian Masters, he made it to the summit clash – his first final on the Tour after more than eight months!

It was the first time since March that the youngster had managed to string together five back-to-back wins. The World Superseries Finals at Dubai came too early for the Pullela Gopichand ward, who had just about started his resurgence. He wasn’t yet ready to take on the top guns and it was evident.

The diligent Srikanth plunged into hard work for the next three weeks, never letting his wobbly performance at the Superseries Finals overshadow his efforts. The Indonesian Masters had brought him back the hunger that was so lacking for a long time. Most importantly, it had re-ignited his love and passion for the game again.

The enjoyment factor seems to be back

At the PBL, Srikanth is once again enjoying his time on the court and his results are speaking for him. His attacking instincts are full on display just like before. Using every inch of the court, he is giving a thorough exhibition of his speed and tenacity. The smashes are regularly finding their mark and the angles and deft touches are able to outfox his rivals again.

Srikanth is back to being a thinking player and is able to readily spot the areas of his game where he needs to change. After initially floundering against Lee Chong Wei at the PBL, Srikanth found a way to make his game work, which he admitted later: “I played five different strokes, made five different mistakes. And then I changed.”

It is this positivity that bodes well for his 2016 season, the start of which is crucial for his Olympic medal chances. The PBL has definitely served its purpose as far as Srikanth is concerned, who is flourishing with the extra bit of match practice ahead of the new season.

It now remains to be seen if this mature version of Srikanth can take this forward and build on this to be in peak form by the time the Rio Olympics arrives in August. And that is something the countless Indian badminton aficionados will be waiting to watch with bated breath.

PBL – Saina Nehwal, Lee Chong Wei top buys at Premier Badminton League Auction

  • Saina Nehwal bought by Awadh Warriors of Lucknow.
  • Lee Chong Wei bought by Hyderabad Hunters.

December 7, 2015

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New Delhi: Top stars Saina Nehwal and Lee Chong Wei were the costliest buys, fetching a whopping USD 100,000, while Indian shuttlers P V Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth were bought for USD 95,000 and USD 80,000 respectively at the rechristened Premier Badminton League (PBL) players’ auction here on Monday.

World No. 2 Saina and former World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei were bought by Awadh Warriors of Lucknow and Hyderabad Hunters respectively for USD100000 each in the PBL Auction.

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Two-time Bronze Medallist at the World Championship and three times winner of Macau Open, Sindhu found herself in the middle of an aggressive bidding today among Delhi Acers, Mumbai Rockets and Chennai Smashers and she was finally bought by Chennai Smashers for USD 95000.

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World No. 9 Srikanth, who won the Swiss Open and India Super Series this season, attracted fierce bids from Bangalore Top Guns and Mumbai Rockets before being bought by the former for USD 80000.

Indonesian player Tommy Sugiarto, who had beaten Srikanth at the finals of Indonesia Masters Grand Prix Gold last week, was picked by Delhi Acers for USD 74,000.

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Among other Indians, Commonwealth Games Champion Parupalli Kashyap went to Hyderabad Hunters for USD 35,000 same as Ajay Jayaram, who went to Delhi Acers.

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Men’s Doubles player B Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri went for their base price of USD 25,000 to Bengaluru Top Guns and Mumbai Rockets respectively.

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2010 Commonwealth Games Champion Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa went for USD 30,000 to their homes cities — Hyderabad and Bengaluru respectively.

Promising Indian Shuttler HS Prannoy fetched USD 47,000 from Mumbai Rockets while Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboosuk fetched USD 41000 from Awadhe Warriors.

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Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov was bought by Mumbai Rockets for USD 42,000 while England’s Rajiv Ouseph was taken by Delhi Acers for USD 36,000 during the auction.

 

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Six Teams — Hyderabad Hunters, Mumbai Rockets, Delhi Acers, Bengaluru Top Guns, Awadh Warriors, Chennai Smashers – each had a total purse of USD 275000.

In the end the franchises seemed satisfied with their buys.

Speaking on the sidelines of the auction, Upinder Zutshi, CEO & MD, ICS, Delhi Acers said: “We are very satisfied with players that we have bought. We tried to take PV Sindhu but it was Chennai Smashers who were lucky. The rules for the auction are transparent and clear and we too were keen to buy Saina Nehwal but it was Awadh Warriors who finally took her”.

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Kalai, Chennai Smashers said: “We were adamant to pick PV Sindhu and we successfully did so. We are happy that we have her in our team. We have managed to get good players in our team”.

 Speaking on Saina Nehwal in Awadh Warriors, Abhijit Sarkar, Team Owner said: “We are very happy to have Saina Nehwal in our team. The team that we have in place looks complete and we are confident and excited about the League”.

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Commenting on the proceedings, Vagish Pathak, Mumbai Rockets Owner said: “We are satisfied with the players that we have in the team. We were aiming to get Vladimir Ivanov, HS Prannoy and Manu Attri in our team and I am happy that we got him”.

Dr. VRK Rao, Team Owner for Hyderabad Hunters said: Lee Chong Wei was the biggest catch for us and having P Kashyap, Jwala Gutta and Markis Kido adds more strength to the team”.

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Prasad Mangipudi, MD, Bangalore Top Guns said, “We are very happy with the acquisition of a star player like Srikanth. The team composition is on the lines we had planned for and we believe the squad we have is capable of winning PBL”.

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The lucrative tournament, now known as PBL, will kick-start on January 2 in Mumbai with an extravagant opening ceremony and the grand finale will take place here on January 17.

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PBL players sold list 1

 

PBL players list 2