Focus will be on double Olympic medallist P V Sindhu and World Championships bronze winner Lakshya Sen as the Indian badminton contingent resumes its quest for a medal at the Thomas and Uber Cup Final beginning on Sunday. No Indian men’s team has ever won a medal in the Thomas Cup, having failed to reach the semifinal even once. But the women had two semifinal finishes in successive editions of the Uber Cup to clinch two bronze medals in 2014 and 2016. Last year, both the men’s and women’s teams signed off their campaigns at the quarterfinal stage.
This time, India boasts of a strong men’s team comprising world number 9 Sen, world number 11 Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy, ranked 23rd in the world, in singles.
The doubles will be led by world number 9 pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, while the combination of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, and that of Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala are also part of the team.
Given a robust team and a favourable draw, Indian men will look to make the golden opportunity count as they open the campaign against Germany in group C which also comprises Chinese Taipei and Canada.
The women’s team, however, was left depleted following the withdrawals of the experienced doubles pair of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa and fast-rising Gayatri Gopichand.
Both Sikki and Gayatri are nursing injuries and have been advised rest.
In their absence, the onus will be on the shoulders of upcoming doubles players such as Tanisha Crasto, Shruti Mishra, Simran Singhi, Ritika Thaker and Treesa Jolly. In the women’s singles, world number 7 Sindhu will have to do the heavy lifting as the other two singles players Aakarshi Kashyap and young Unnati Hooda lack experience but will look to produce a good show. They had made it to the squad following a rigorous selection trial.
With some key players missing, it will be tough for the women’s team to get past group D members South Korea, Canada and United States and win a medal.
According to the format, a total of 16 teams have been drawn into four groups of four with the top two teams advancing to the knockout stage.
Of all the group C members, Indian men will face the toughest competition from Chinese Taipei, who boasts of world number 4 Chou Tien Chen, besides the world number 3 doubles pairing of Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin.
For women, Korea will be a tough competitor, boasting of world number 4 An Seyoung, world number 19 Kim Gaeun and world number 46 Sim Yujin, while Michelle Li is the top player for Canada, who might prove to be a tricky customer.
Defending champion Indonesia are the most successful team in the Thomas Cup with 14 men’s titles, while China has 15 Uber Cup crowns in their kitty.
“We have the best chance to win Thomas Cup this time. We have three decent singles and one doubles pair at par with the best and we just have to make sure that they are all pumped up, all of them are capable of beating the best,” former India coach Vimal Kumar told PTI.
“I can understand, it is difficult for the women’s team but the men’s team has a good chance.”
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