India’s badminton campaign at the Hangzhou Asian Games begins on Thursday with men’s and women’s team events… and a high dose of hope.
India has never won an Asiad gold medal in Badminton, one of the country’s most successful international sports. It won’t be easy this time either, with hosts China being the most dominant force in the sport.
But hope is not unreasonable.
After all, India are the reigning world champions in the men’s team, winning a historic first Thomas Cup title in 2022. And the core of that team will now be in action in Hangzhou with even more experience
The men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are the reigning Asian champions, having won the title in April, and HS Prannoy is enjoying the form of life to bring home a maiden World Championship medal.
But even if India did not manage the gold, the men’s team medal would end the 1986 drought. The draw, released on Wednesday, helps everything but guarantee a medal.
Meet the squad:
India’s Asian Games squad was named in May after a round of selection trials in which higher-ranked players were exempted. The highlight was Kidambi Srikanth defeating Lakshya Sen which saw him take the individual event. Laksh has been in good form since then and Srikanth is uncertain.
Men’s Singles: HS Prannoy and Kidambi Srikanth (Individual/Team), Lakshya Sen and Mithun Manjunath (Team).
Men’s Doubles: Satviksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty and Dhruv Kapila/MR Arjun (Individual/Team).
Women’s Singles: PV Sindhu and Asmita Chaliha (Individual/Team), Anupama Upadhyay and Malvika Bansod (Team).
Women’s Doubles: Gayatri Gopichand/Trisa Jolly and Ashwini Ponnappa/Tanisha Crasto (Individual/Team). Mixed Doubles: Rohan Kapoor / N Sikki Reddy and Sai Prateek K / Tanisha Crasto.
How is India’s draw?
At this point, only team event draws have been released and it’s a very good one.
The Indian men’s team received a first-round bye due to their high ranking and will start directly from the quarterfinals. Their opponent – winner of Mongolia vs Nepal. Defeat them and secure a medal. Simple has it.
The first real test will be the semi-finals, where they will likely play either Indonesia or Malaysia — all formidable opponents.
Indonesia were India’s opponents in the Thomas Cup final and had a strong line-up with world no. 2 Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and world no. His team consists of 2 men’s doubles pair of Fajr Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto.
The Malaysian men’s team, champions of the Commonwealth Games, defeated India in the final in Birmingham last year. If India somehow manage to reach the gold medal match, it is fair to assume that their opponents will be hosting China. Can anyone beat the Chinese badminton team in China? We will know soon.
On the other hand, the women’s team will likely face a tougher test for medals. They last won a team Asiad medal in 2014, with Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu in charge.
The current team is relatively inexperienced and the recent form of the women’s doubles pair of Sindhu and Trisa-Gayatri is cause for concern.
They started their campaign from the first round, taking on Mongolia. In the quarter-finals they will face Thailand, who were eliminated in the first round.
A win would guarantee a medal, but that would require the team to click together. Thailand are without their top singles player, Ratchanok Inthanon, who ended his first season with an injury. Still, they have considerable depth with three other players in the top 20 – Pornpawi Chochuong, Busanan Ongbamrungphan and Supanida Kathethong. A peak Sindhu had a sure shot here and hope remains that she can find her form again in a big event.
Should India reach the semi-finals, they will take on South Korea, led by world No. 1 An Se-yong in singles and world No. 2 Lee So-hee and Baek Ha-na in doubles – both in red-hot form.
While the team event will give the Indians some match time in Hangzhou, that will help once the individual events – which put points in the Olympic qualification cycle – start from October 1.