Analysing the chances of the Indian doubles contingent at Rio Olympics 2016
A lot of talk surrounding the chances of the Indian badminton contingent travelling to Brazil for the Olympic Games have revolved around 2012 bronze medalist Saina Nehwal on whether she can clinch a second consecutive medal and the rest of the Singles contingent, who are tipped to get at least one medal back home.
The pressure on Saina is comparatively more since she has had the experience of competing on the biggest stage and has succeeded there while her fellow Singles shuttlers PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth will be participating in their maiden Olympic Games.
While the entire spotlight has been on them, the doubles contingent have been quietly passing under the radar, with not many talking about their chances of returning home with a medal
Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa- Inconsistent for a large part, impressive in recent times
Between London 2012 and now, Jwala and Ashwini have combined together for just over two years after the former decided to take a break from the sport, post the Games four years ago.
The time away from the sport seemed to have done her some good as the duo clinched the silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and then were part of the team that won the bronze in the Asian Championships in Gimcheon a few months later.
While the duo’s performance at quadrennial events was impressive they continued to struggle at other big events like the Superseries, losing in the initial stages on more occasions than not.
The one bright spot was seen last year when they won the Canada Open Grand Prix Gold in July, but barring that, the duo had little to talk about as far as their exploits in competitions was concerned.
Jwala had spoken out several times on the need to have a specialist doubles coach and the Badminton Association of India adhered to those requirements, by roping in former Malaysian doubles coach Tan Kim Her.
The improvements in the game of the duo was seen most noticeably at the Uber Cup in May when their movements at both at the far end as well as near the net looked good. Ashwini's judgement on the far court seemed precise while Jwala seemed to have got new tricks near the net with the twirling of the racquet in the last moment, a new trick added to her repertoire.
The draw will play a crucial role in their chances to win a medal and the duo will know that they will need to be on top of their game at all stages in order to stake a claim to win. The Chinese pairings will come hard at them, but one cannot underestimate the capabilities of the rest.
This will be a crucial Olympics for the duo for it could be the last one that they may play together as a team at the quadrennial event and that factor should certainly motivate them further to go after that elusive medal in Brazil.