Forget the guns and violence, who would want to miss the nationals when it is being held in Srinagar? This is the opinion of players, who’ve regrouped in the state capital, barely eight months since the last senior nationals. Young shuttler Sanyogita Ghorpade is not the only one for whom the visit is overwhelming. Players from south India have had to pull out extra-thick woolens and mittens.
After Bangalore hosted the event in January, Srinagar is making its debut on the domestic circuit by hosting the country's top badminton tournament. J&K had previously hosted the championship in 1986. And the turnout — not the cream though — has squashed the underlying fears of visiting the troubled state.
Posters of Saina Nehwal adorn the Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium but the world No. 4 and doubles player Jwala Gutta have skipped the event. The former cited fitness issues while the latter has taken a brief sabbatical.
The nationals, which are traditionally held in January-February, were brought forward this time as the temperature here drops rapidly after October.
Meanwhile, the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) entered the finals of the team championship in both the men's and women's categories. Led by London Olympic Games quarterfinalist P Kashyap and reigning national champion Sourabh Verma, they meet traditional rivals Air India in the men's section. In the women's section, PSPB, who boast of Ashwini Ponnappa in their ranks, will face the Airport Authority of India in the title clash.
Team event's semifinal results: Men: PSPB bt Airport Authority of India (AAI) 3-1; Air India bt Assam 3-1; Women: PSPB bt Assam 2-0; AAI bt Air India 2-0