Hyderabad, Dec 31 : The Premier Badminton League (PBL) begins on Sunday with a clash between Hyderabad Hunters and Chennai Smashers in a clash that includes a sub-plot -- a tussle between Olympic women's singles finalists Carolina Marin and P.V. Sindhu.
Carolina had triumphed over Sindhu in the Rio Games final and come Sunday, they will renew the rivalry on the first day of 2017. But what will be interesting to see is whether Hyderbad's crowd support Chennai's Sindhu against two-time reigning world champion Carolina, who will be spearheading Hyderbad's challenge.
Apart from Sindhu, Chennai boast men's singles shuttlers Tommy Sugiarto and Parupalli Kashyap, who will be eager to continue his progress after making a comeback from a knee injury. Britain's Adcock couple, Chris and Gabrielle will be important in the men's and the mixed doubles matches.
In the opposite camp will be two talented Indian singles youngsters Sameer Verma and B. Sai Praneeth. In the form of English Rajiv Ouseph, Hyderabad have a proven international player. Malaysian doubles specialist Tan Boon Heong and Tan Wee Kiong.
The Bengaluru-Chennai tie will be followed by the clash between Bengaluru Blasters and defending champions Delhi Smashers.
Bengaluru possess 2016 Olympic silver medallist Viktor Axelsen of Denmark and other singles options are Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand and Indian Sourabh Verma. However, they have a weaker women's singles force in Shivani Ruthvika Gadde. The doubles players in the team are Ashwini Ponnappa, Ko Sung-hyun and his former South Korean men's doubles partner Yoo Yeon-seong.
Their rival camp Delhi has two strong men's singles competitors in Dane Jan 'O' Jorgensen and South Korean Wan Ho Son. The form of Thai shuttler Nitchaon Jindapon will be crucial. Ivan Suzonov and Vladimir Ivanov play as a pair in the tour so their continuity gives Delhi the advantage. But they will also partner Indian veteran Jwala Gutta in the mixed doubles and their chemistry will determine Delhi's success.
The rest two teams are Mumbai Rockets and Awadhe Warriors who play on Monday. Awadhe will be spearheaded by Indian star Saina Nehwal, who will be keen to prove her form after overcoming fitness hurdles late November. A match against world No.3 Sung ji Hyun will be a good test for Saina.
Ajay Jayaram and H.S. Prannoy are the men's singles options for Mumbai, while 2008 Olympic champion Lee Yong Dae will be important in the doubles games.
In Awadhe's team, Kidambi Srikanth and Vincent Wong Wing Ki are strong men's singles options, while Markis Kido and Goh W Shem are crucial in the doubles games.
These talented players will vie for a prize purse of Rs 6 crores across five venues. After two days of action in Hyderabad, National Sports Club of India, Mumbai and BBD Uttar Pradesh Badminton Academy will host the second and third leg respectively. Koramangala Indoor Stadium will host the Bengaluru leg, while Delhi will host the semi-finals and the final.