With star shuttler Saina Nehwal not playing, the Indian women’s team have a tough task at hand in the Badminton Asia Team Championships beginning at the Gachibowli stadium tomorrow.
In the absence of Saina, doubles pair of Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponnappa and the young players like PV Sindhu have to steer the team in the competitive team event.
The Indian women, who are clubbed with Japan and Singapore in the group, comprises PV Sindhu, Ruthvika Shivani Gadde, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa, Maneesha K, Sikki Reddy, PC Thulasi and Arathi Sara Sunil.
Saina, currently ranked world number two, ruled herself out for the event as she is still recovering from the foot injury.
She had earlier missed the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold tournament in Lucknow and also the South Asian Games.
The young players will have to take charge in the event of Saina not playing in the Badminton Asia tournament, Chief National Coach Pullela Gopichand said.
“I think the youngsters will have to take charge. It is also good that we have experience on our side in terms of Jwala being there and Ashwini being there. I am hoping that we do well. As a team, I think everybody is prepared to give their best. Every player has to pull out his match,” he said.
Indian men’s team can take some solace from the absence of top shuttlers like Lin Dan, Chen Long (China) and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, but it will not be a cakewalk for them either as they are grouped with the formidable China and Singapore.
India’s campaign would be spearheaded by its promising young players, including Kidambi Srikanth, Ajay Jayaram and HS Prannoy. The other men in the team are Parupalli Kashyap, Manu Attri, Sumeeth Reddy, Pranav Jerry Chopra, Akshay Dewalkar, Satwiksairaj and Chirag Shetty.
Though the name of Kashyap, who pulled out of the SAG due to fitness issues, figures in the team, Gopichand had said that he would bet on Srikanth and others.
He (Kashyap) is there. But, as far as I am concerned, Srikanth, Ajay and Prannoy would be my first three bets for singles,” Gopichand said.
Though China and Japan appear to be strong teams, others like India, Indonesia and Malaysia cannot be underestimated either, he said.
“When you walk and say, China, Japan would look like stronger teams. Having said that, countries like Korea, India, Indonesia, Malaysia are also things which cannot be discounted,” Gopichand said
The participating teams shall play in two stages. Top two teams from each group qualify for the final stage to be played on knock-out basis.
The participating teams will be granted with Olympic points in order to qualify for the upcoming Rio Games in August. Badminton Asia Team Championships also serve as Thomas and Uber Cup Asia Continental Qualifying Round.