The Badminton Association of India (BAI) on Wednesday named six youngsters including Gayatri Gopichand in a strong 20-strong squad, headlined by the star trio of K Srikanth, PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal for the prestigious Asian Games in Jakarta. Gayatri, daughter of chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, will be joined by Ashmita Chaliha, Sai Uttejitha Rao, Akarshi Kashyap, Rutuparna Panda, Aarthi Sara Sunil and Sourabh Verma, winner of 2016 Chinese Taipei Masters.
BAI had organised two senior-ranking tournaments in Bangalore and Hyderabad to select the squad after exempting senior players from the twin events. On a comeback trail after recovering from a series of injuries, former national champion Sourabh, who had won in Bangalore and reached the final at Hyderabad, took the only remaining men’s singles spot after automatic selections Srikanth, Prannoy, Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma.
In women’s singles, BAI picked four young shuttlers after they produced good show in the selection tournaments. Uttejitha and Ashmita won the titles in Bangalore and Hyderabad respectively. Fifteen-year-old Gayatri and Aakarshi Kashyap, who reached the semi-finals in Hyderabad, also made the cut, while former national champion Rituparna Das, who was runners-up at Bengaluru, was the notable exclusion.
Young women’s doubles pair of Rutaparna Panda and Arathi Sara Sunil too was rewarded for wining the title in Bengaluru and reaching the semifinals in Hyderabad as the duo grabbed the second spot in the squad. They will join Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy in the squad.
The men’s doubles category will be lead by CWG silver medallists Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, while Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will be the second pair. Senior mixed doubles pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki also selected themselves in the squad, which will have Satwik and Ashwini joining hands for the second pair. The selection committee met in Bangalore, while selecting the squad also kept in mind the consistency and fitness of the players over six months period as well report of coaches from the training camps and competitions as criteria for selection.
“To keep the selection process fair and transparent, certain criteria were set by the selection panel with key being the points earned by each player from the two qualification domestic tournaments,” BAI president Himanta Biswa Sarma said. “Wherever the scores of two players were same; their head to head performances were considered before finalising the names. I must say all the players who have been selected deserved a chance to represent the country. I would like to congratulate the players and wish them all the best for the games.”