Bangalore, Aug 23 (IANS) The million-dollar Indian Badminton League (IBL) rolls into the erstwhile Garden City for a double-header weekend that could well provide strong pointers to potential semi-finalists from the six-team mix.
The fifth round of the championship, that began in Delhi and travelled through Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune before heading to Bangalore and concluding in Hyderabad ahead of the knock-out matches, has Mumbai Masters (13 points) taking on Awadhe Warriors (8) on Saturday and hosts Banga Beats facing Krrish Delhi Smashers the following day.
With the top team in the league, Hyderabad Hotshots (15 points from four ties) almost certain to qualify for the semi-finals, the remaining five franchises are jostling for the other three knock-out berths.
While Masters and Smashers complete their league engagements here this weekend, the other four teams will meet in Hyderabad for the final round of the league phase when the semi-final line-up will be identified.
That being the situation, the Masters, spearheaded by World No.1 Malaysian Lee Chong Wei, would be hoping to get back to winning ways after suffering a 2-3 defeat to Hotshots in Pune earlier this week.
In contrast, the Warriors, led by PV Sindhu, appear to have got some momentum going in their campaign that began with two defeats before a flattering 4-1 win against Smashers, also in Pune, put them back on track. Thus, another win should put them in contention for semi-finals.
Thus, Masters who too need to win their concluding league fixture Saturday against the Warriors, have their task cut out. One suspects that the three singles matches could well hold the key to the tie.
Much also would depend on the ability of the teams to travel well, unused as the players are to jetting around the country with insufficient time to rest and recover between ties.
Also, given the altitude of Bangalore at 3,000 feet above sea level, the shuttles would be travelling faster through the air, something that puts a premium on control over shots, especially those deep and high to the backcourt.
On the face of it, the Masters vs Warriors tie appears wide open with both sides having more than a fair chance to pull off a victory that, to say the least, will be hard-earned.