NEW DELHI: Reigning champions of the Thomas Cup, India will look to replicate their success as they chase Badminton Asia Team Championships crown in Shah Alam (Malaysia).
The return of double Olympic medalist PV Sindhu from injury will add to the team’s strength and determination.
The Indian men’s team, triumphant in the 2022 Thomas Cup and securing a historic silver at the recent Asian Games, sets its sights on clinching the continental title this week. After clinching bronze in the 2016 and 2018 editions, they are determined to go all the way in the upcoming event.
It won’t be a walk in the park for the Indian men’s team, who will face formidable China and Hong Kong in its group A league matches.
However, India, led by HS Prannoy, Lakshya Sen and inform doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, will back themselves to finish in the top two and make it to the knockout stage.
The women’s team, led by Sindhu, got the rub of green as China is the only other team in Group ‘W’ and India are thus already assured of a knockout berth.
It will be an uphill task for the women’s team, which will depend on Sindhu and the two doubles pairs — Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Treesa Jolly-Gayatri Gopichand and Guwahati Masters 2023 champions Ashwini Ponnappa-Tanisha Crasto to provide them the push.
For Sindhu, the event assumes extra significance as she will look to test her match fitness and regain confidence after being missing action since October last year.
The 28-year-old had suffered a knee injury at the French Open and took some time to regain her fitness and then shifted her base to Bengaluru to train under mentor Prakash Padukone at PPBA.
The continental competition will also be important for the players as it offers valuable qualification points in the race to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Focus will also be on the young and second string Indian players such as Thailand Open super 300 semifinalist Ashmita Chaliya, 16-year-old senior national champion Anmol Kharb and Badminton Asia Junior Championships medallist Tanvi Sharma, who would be eager to punch above their weight on the grand stage.
India will begin its campaign on Wednesday with the men’s team taking on Hong Kong and Sindhu and Co. facing China at the Setia City Convention Centre here.
While Hong Kong boasts of two solid men’s singles players in World No. 18 and World No. 22 Ng Ka Long Angus, they lack a decent doubles pair and India is expected to get across their opponents.
The same can’t be said about their women’s counterparts. China won’t have the presence of Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei in their ranks but the likes of World No. 8 Han Yue, World No. 9 Wang Zhi Yi and World No. 15 Zhang Yi Man could prove a handful for Chaliha and Kharb.
China will also be without their top doubles pair but World No. 4 Liu Sheng Shu and Tan Ning will be tough opponents.
(With inputs from PTI)
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