The result of the last tie between Delhi Acers and Mumbai Rockets in the 2016 Premier Badminton League hung in balance until the very last match. As the matches progressed, fluctuation of fortunes from one side to another kept the spectator interest on an upper keel. In that respect, it was a worthy final between the two top teams in the 2-week long tournament played at multiple venues across India. Everything finally came down to the last men’s singles Trump match between England’s Rajiv Ouseph, who played for Delhi and Mumbai Rockets’ RMV Gurusai Dutt. As it turned out Ouseph proved too good for Gurusai Dutt as he not only took the match from Dutt but helped Delhi win the inaugural Premier Badminton League. In fact, the 2016 Premier Badminton League appeared as the rechristened edition of 2013 Indian Badminton League. In one of the most highly prized sporting event in India, the winning team collected a cash award of 30 million Indian rupees while as runner-up, Mumbai Rockets got 20 million. Not only that, the losing semifinalists, Chennai Smashers and Awadhe Warriors also received 7.5 million rupees each.
The final tie to decide the 2016 PBL champion turned out to be an absorbing contest as the players were nearly equally matched as they fought hard to the end. The tie began with the mixed doubles match between Mumbai’s Kamilla Juhl/Vladimir Ivanov and Delhi’s Gabrielle Adcock and Akshay Dewalkar. The Mumbai duo looked in fine fettle and kept their lead in the first game to finally win at 15-6. The Delhi team tried to make a comeback in the second game by dominating at initial stages but once the Juhl/Ivanov combo found their bearings, they overtook Dewalkar/Adcock to take the game and the match at 15-6, 15-12. The victory meant Mumbai Rockets took a 1-0 lead in the tie.
The next match was the men’s singles between Delhi’s Tommy Sugiarto and Mumbai’s HS Prannoy. In the neck-to-neck first game, Prannoy made a sudden surge towards the end and won the game 15-13. However, the Indonesian made a strong comeback in the second game. Sugiarto’s brilliance saw Prannoy being forced into committing errors and lost several crucial points. With Sugiarto taking the second game, the match went to the deciding third game. Once again, both players got engaged in close fight but this time, it was Sugiarto, who called the shots as he took the match away from Prannoy by winning at 13-15, 15-9, 15-9. This brought the tie score to 1-1.
The third match was the men’s doubles between Delhi’s Koo Keat Kein/Tan Boon Heaong and Mumbai’s Vladimir Ivanov/Mathias Boe. In the hard-fought first game, it became difficult to decide which pair was better as the game score were level at 14-14. After Mumbai won the first game in sudden death at 15-14, the Delhi pair came back strongly in the second and ensured that the match was sent to the deciding third game. It was crunch time for both teams now. The winning team here would steal the advantage as only two more matches remained. The game became so absorbing that everyone was on the edge of the seat. From 11-14, Mumbai made a comeback to level at 14-14 but lost the final point to yield the advantage to Delhi. At this point, Delhi led 2-1.
The fourth was the Trump match between Mumbai’s Chinese recruit Han Li and Delhi’s PC Thulasi. Li had won for Mumbai in the semifinal against Saina Nehwal of Awadhe but Thulasi was no mean player either and Li had played against an injured Saina. To Mumbai’s utter shock, Thulasi took the first game from Li with a dominating display. But the Chinese girl proved gritty and bounced back to level the game scores. Going into the decider, Li kept her second-game tempo intact and came through with a 12-15, 15-8, 15-8 victory over Thulasi and earned 2 points for Mumbai while Delhi lost one. At this stage, Mumbai led 3-2.
The last men’s singles Trump match became a do-or-die affair for both teams. Delhi fielded England’s Rajiv Ouseph to play against Mumbai’s RMV Gurusai Dutt. Both players looked equally matched in the beginning but Ouseph soon began to dominate. Despite Dutt’s best efforts, Ouseph took the first game 15-11. In the second game, Ouseph continued his attacking game while the fight went out of Dutt. In the end, riding on Ouseph’s decisive victory Delhi Acres emerged the victorious side in the 2016 Premier Badminton League.
In many ways, the advent of Premier Badminton League after a gap of two years benefitted sports lovers in India. Besides many people watching the ties in indoor venues in Mumbai, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Delhi, the Star-Sports televised event was keenly followed by viewers. The attractive prize purse lured famous international stars, who joined India’s top badminton players in Club-like games. Matches were keenly fought and no one wanted to yield an inch. Though Saina Nehwal and Lee Chong Wei couldn’t excel as expected, there were others, who kept the badminton fans enthralled. Though the organizers had little time for preparations, they still managed to put up a great show at all venues.
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