A depleted but young team, led by Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy, will face the ardous task of punching above their weight when they compete in the Thomas and Uber Cup Final starting in Bangkok on Sunday.
With senior shuttlers such as world no. 3 PV Sindhu and world no 4 Kidambi Srikanth being rested, Saina and Prannoy will be the only star attraction at the world team championships, where the women’s team won two bronze medals in the last two editions, while their men counterparts failed to make it to the knockout stage in last eight years.
Besides world No 9 Prannoy, the men’s team boasts of Singapore Open champion B Sai Praneeth, Swiss Open winner Sameer Verma and world No 10 (junior rankings) Lakshay Sen in the singles.
National champion pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy and the young combo of Arjun MR and Shlok Ramachandran will have to handle the responsibility in doubles.
India have been clubbed with France, Australia and formidable China in Group A of Thomas Cup and Prannoy and Co know they can’t effort any slip up when they open their campaign against France on Sunday.
“Competition is tough. We have a good young team and we can come back with a medal but first we are focussed on beating France and make it to the knockout stage,” Praneeth told PTI.
“France is not an easy team. Brice Leverdez and Lucas Corvee are good and we can’t take them for guaranteed. If we beat France we are through to quarterfinal and then we can sit and strategies and if we get a good team such as Indonesia or Korea, we have good chance in singles,” he added.
Given the fact that India’s strength lies in singles, especially with Commonwealth Games silver medallists doubles pair of Satwik Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty not in the team, the country’s campaign will largely depend on the three singles matches.
The women’s team, on the other hand, have been placed along side Canada, Australia and heavyweights Japan in group A and they would need to bring out their best to finish in top two and make it to the quarterfinals.
The women’s team is more depleted and inexperienced as apart from Sindhu, Commonwealth Games bronze medallists pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy too couldn’t make it to the team with the latter being diagnosed with Typhoid a couple of weeks back.
While Saina is expected to pull off her matches, it would be a tall ask for 16-year-old Vaishnavi Jakka Reddy, world No 64 Sai Krishna Priya and Anura Prabhu Desai and Vaishanavi Bhale to outshine their opponents in the singles match, especially against Japan and Canada.
The doubles combination of Prajakta Sawant/Sanyogita Ghorpade and Poorvisha S Ram/Meghana J too will have to produce something special to salvage any hopes of a win against their formidable opponents such as Japan.