The Indian badminton women’s team flattered to deceive in the ongoing Thomas and Uber Cup being played in Bangkok, Thailand.
After comfortable 4-1 back-to-back wins over Canada and USA in the league phase, India lost to Korea 0-5 in their final league outing to finish second in Group D.
India did qualifiy for the knock-outs but were humbled 0-3 by hosts Thailand in the quarter-finals on Thursday. Thailand topped their Group C after thrashing Denmark (5-0), Egypt (5-0) and Malaysia (4-1).
In the last edition in Aarhus, Denmark, Indian eves were knocked out in the quarters as well. Although the Indian women’s team have bagged a couple of bronze medals in the Uber Cup in the past, they have struggled in recent editions.
The Indian team was selected on the basis of performance in the week-long selection trials held at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi. However, injuries to some key players prior to departure disturbed the balance of the squad.
The new-look squad lacked the experience to play at the highest level and could not cross the quarter-final hurdle. The inglorious exit also exposed the lack of depth in the Indian women’s badminton team.
The absence of Ashwini Ponnanna, Sikki Reddy & Gayatri Gopichand hampered India's chances
The Indian women’s doubles pair of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponappa withdrew from the Uber Cup tournament due to the former’s injury.
Sikki Reddy has suffered a Grade 2 Tear of Abdomen (abdominus rectus) as confirmed by an MRI and has been advised rest for 4-6 weeks by the doctor.
A few days later, rising Indian doubles player Gayatri Gopichand also pulled out of the Uber Cup Finals after being advised to rest to recover from a strain in the hip joints.
Due to the absence of regular pairs Ashiwni-Sikki and Gayatri-Treesa, the Indian team management decided to field makeshift pair Tanisha Crasto and Treesa Jolly for the entire tournament.
The young pair Tanisha and Treesa did reasonably well and managed to win two out of the four matches they played in the competition.
Another young duo Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker were given a chance but failed to rise to the occasion. Debutants Simran and Ritika, ranked 75 in the world, played just one match together against USA but went down in three games.
Simran and Ritika lost against world No. 168 Lauren Lam and Kodi Tang Lee 12-21, 21-17, 13-21 in 44 minutes.
Due to lack of options, the Indian team management also tried Simran with Shruti Mishra but that also did not reap dividends.
Shruti Mishra partnered Tanisha Crasto in the selection trials held in New Delhi last month and had qualified for the event.
Since the team management decided to put Tanisha with Treesa, Shruti played with Simran Singhi but lost all three matches together without winning a single game.
The team management had to juggle a lot due to the absence of three regular doubles players, Ashwini Ponnappa, Sikki Reddy and Gayatri Gopichand.
Lots of scope for improvement in women’s singles
Barring PV Sindhu, India struggled to put up a decent fight against Korea and Thailand due to a lack of quality singles players.
Aakarshi Kashyap and Ashmita Chaliha tried their best but it was not enough against formidable opponents from Korea and Thailand.
Aakarshi and Ashmita won their respective singles matches against Canada and USA. However, they simply could not match their higher-ranked opponents in crucial matches.
The onus was on PV Sindhu to deliver against Thailand in the quarter-finals. The double Olympic medalist started off well and won the first game against Thai player Ratchanok Intanon. However, Sindhu lost steam as the match progressed and went down 21-18, 17-21, 12-21 in an hour-long battle.
If Sindhu had won her match against former world champion Intanon, India could have managed to stretch the hosts a little bit.
The Indian badminton think-tank will need to focus on the system to produce quality singles players, otherwise India will continue to struggle in team championships like the Uber Cup.