The Indian badminton team, spearheaded by Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth, will begin its campaign against Malaysia at the Sudirman Cup in Dongguan, China on Monday. India face a stiff challenge from Malaysia and three-time champions South Korea with whom they have been clubbed together in Group 1D at this biennial World Mixed Team Championships.
India’s second group match is scheduled on Wednesday against the formidable South Korean team.
The competition format in Sudirman Cup
35 countries will be competing at the week-long Sudirman Cup event in Dongguan’s Dongfeng Nissan Sports Center. Among them, the top 12 teams in the elite Group 1 are divided into four sub-groups. After the group playoff, the top 2 teams from each sub-group will advance to the quarter-finals. The rest of the teams are divided into Groups 2, 3 and 4 where they will be vying for a place in Group 1.
Each round in this competition consists of five matches – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
India needs strong support from its doubles players
India will be banking on the experience and confidence of its singles stars – World No. 2 Saina Nehwal, No. 11 PV Sindhu, No. 4 Kidambi Srikanth and 13th-ranked Parupalli Kashyap. The star power in singles means that India will be well placed to do better than the 5th place they secured in 2011.
However, the competition format has three doubles matches and India will need strong support from its doubles players. This is an area where India is relatively vulnerable and the outcome of India’s doubles matches will be a deciding factor in determining the team’s fate.
Former World Championships bronze medallists Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will be the team’s biggest bet in doubles. Gutta and Ponnappa are currently ranked 22nd in the latest rankings and are our highest-ranked doubles team. Pradnya Gadre and N Sikki Reddy – India’s second women’s doubles team – too have been notching up a few victories recently. Gadre and Reddy clinched the Polish Open this year and that win has shot them up inside the top 45 in the world rankings.
The World No. 30 pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will be shouldering the responsibility in men’s doubles. Attri and Reddy will be aided by India’s second men’s doubles team – Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar who are also in the world’s top 35.
Arun Vishu and Aparna Balan, ranked 66th, will be carrying the hopes in mixed doubles.
Return of former World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei
One of the biggest storylines at this edition of the Sudirman Cup is the return of former World No. 1 Malaysian Lee Chong Wei. Lee had received a backdated eight-month dope-related suspension by the Badminton World Federation and all eyes will be on him after the hiatus.
The Olympic and World Championships silver medallist will probably not be as sharp after the break and that presents a good opportunity to our Indian shuttlers on Monday.
Both Parupalli Kashyap and Kidambi Srikanth are still searching for their maiden victories over the former top-ranked player. While Kashyap is 0-5, Kidambi Srikanth is 0-3 against Lee and their recent strides on the international circuit will surely motivate them for some much-awaited success against the Malaysian.
Lee Chong Wei, himself is also aware of the rise of Indian badminton and how well Srikanth has been playing lately.
“I’m aware that Srikanth has been playing really well. I’ll just go and try my best,” said Lee.
Sports Rediscovered wishes the Indian shuttlers all the best for the Sudirman Cup and hopes they can continue to bring laurels for India.