15.2 C
Los Angeles

India in 'group of death' as they chase historic Sudirman Cup medal

The Sudirman Cup, which is badminton’s world mixed team championship, gets underway from May 14 in China, marking the start of the 2024 Olympic qualification cycle.

It is one of the biggest, and notoriously toughest prizes to win in badminton. Only three countries have won the tournament in its 18 editions – Indonesia once, South Korea four times and China, a whopping 12 times.

India has not won a medal at Sudirman Cup ever, the best results being a quarterfinal finish in 2011 and 2017, In the last edition, India went out in group stage after losing to China and Thailand. In this edition, the group stage won’t be any easier as India are placed in what’s being called the group of death with heavyweights Malaysia and Chinese Taipei, along with Australia.

But in 2023, things are a little different. Less than a year ago, India would probably not have been considered as contenders at a badminton team championship. But that was pre-Thomas Cup.

When India won a historic first men’s team championship in May 2022, which was India’s first medal at the Thomas Cup, it caused a shift in Indian badminton’s hopes. Sure, there were a couple of Uber Cup bronze medals before, but a gold medal at a team world championship can be game changing.

Now, India has an all-round a team, a team that won a bronze at the Asian Mixed Team championships earlier this year. It may not be a consistently world-beating, but it’s a team that raises hope of another first in Indian badminton’s recent history of firsts.

But India is in the ‘Group of Death’?

Yes, first India need to get past what is one of the toughest groups in the competition:

Australia: A team India is expected to beat, but will play last.

Malaysia: A team that features the two big nemeses of India’s leading doubles pairs – Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, Tan Pearly and Thinaah Muralitharan as well as the likes of Lee Zii Jia and Ng Tze Yong.

Chinese Taipei: whose leading singles players are Tai Tzu Ying and Chou Tien Chen and boast of Olympic men’s doubles champions, but a team yet to win a Sudirman Cup medal.

Additionally, what makes the Sudirman Cup so tough is the format:

  • 16 teams divided into four groups of four teams.

  • 2 top from each group reach quarterfinals

  • 5 matches in each tie – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

So, how good are team India’s chances?

The Indians have pedigree and experience and spunk, but are a bit thin on form on the BWF circuit this season. To reach the knockouts, India need the heavyweights in the team to click consistently, and as seen in the past, a team competition does get the best out of them.

Like when India beat Malaysia – a team they lost to in the Commonwealth Games final last July -at this February’s Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships.

The 4-1 margin was unexpected but Prannoy and Sindhu stood up strong before Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand conquered bogey pair Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan. And this win came without Satwik, who was injured. This result also meant India avoided China in the quarterfinal; after which they beat Hong Kong and lost to China in the semis to secure bronze.

What’s India’s squad like?

  • Men’s singles: HS Prannoy, Kidambi Srikanth (Reserve: Lakshya Sen)

  • Women’s singles: PV Sindhu, Anupama Upadhyaya (Reserve: Aakarshi Kashyap)

  • Men’s doubles: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty, MR Arjun/Dhruv Kapila

  • Women’s doubles: Gayatri Gopichand/Treesa Jolly, Ashwini Ponnappa/Tanisha Crasto

  • Mixed doubles: Tanisha Crasto/Sai Pratheek.

Once again, a lot will depend on the singles stars but it will be the doubles teams that will need to be the spine of the team.

PV Sindhu seems to have hit her stride after the difficult comeback from a five-month injury layoff with her final at the Madrid Spain Masters in March and quarterfinal at the Badminton Asia Championship in April. But she will carry the bulk of the weight in women’s singles as Anupama Upadhyaya is very inexperienced on the tour.

In men’s singles, both Prannoy and Srikanth blow hot and cold on tour but have always put their best foot forward when playing for India. The fact that a player like Lakshya is in the reserves speaks to both India’s bench strength and erratic performances, depending on how you look at it.

Both men’s and women’s doubles are expected to deliver; Asian champions Satwik-Chirag can be India’s trump card given their form and the ever-improving Gayatri-Treesa showed what they are capable of already at the mixed team event.

An area of concern will be the mixed doubles due to Ishaan Bhatnagar’s absence after he sustained a bad injury at the Nationals earlier this year. He and Tanisha Crasto were slowly building up momentum on tour and were India’s top pair. Crasto will now play Sai Pratheek; the only listed mixed doubles pair in the list.

However, there is a small back-up option in Satwik-Ashwini, who have teamed up to a good amount of success in the past. This of course depends on Satwik’s workload management, given he has a crucial role to play.

If India are to beat the big guns, they will need four out of the five discipline to fire together.

When and where to watch Sudirman Cup?

The Sudirman Cup will be held from May 14 to 21 with India’s group stage matches on Sunday (Chinese Taipei), Monday (Malaysia) and Wednesday (Australia.)

The matches will be live on BWF TV YouTube channel and will likely be telecast in India from the quarterfinal stage.

Related posts

Uddhav vs Shah, Raut vs Team Shinde as 'Shiv Sena' name row escalates in Maharashtra-Newsonnline.com


NFL experts debate the 2023 draft: Which midround sleeper picks could be fantasy stars?

Gervonta Davis says he's the face of boxing … and he's right

Leave a Comment