Sudirman Cup Preview: India rely on singles strength at the tournament
Dongguan (China), May 9 (IANS)
India will rely on the strength of their singles stars for success at the World Team Badminton Championships for the Sudirman Cup which starts at the Dongfeng Nissan Sports Center here on Sunday.
In the 14th edition of the biennial competition, women's singles World No.2 Saina Nehwal and No.11 P.V. Sindhu, and No.4 Kidambi Srikanth and No.13 Parupalli Kashyap in men's singles, are expected to drive the Indian team who have been placed alongside three-time champions South Korea and Malaysia in Group 1D.
The 15-member strong Indian contingent will take on their rivals in all five categories of the sport -- singles (men's and women's) and doubles (men's, women's and mixed).
The 2011 World Championship bronze medal winning women's pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will give back up in the doubles category.
Among others, N. Sikki Reddy and Pradnya Gadre will be the second women's doubles pair with the talented combine of B. Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri carrying Indian hopes in men's doubles. Aparna Balan and Arun Vishnu will take the court in mixed doubles unless the combinations are changed by the team management, headed by chief national coach Pullela Gopichand.
In their first tie, India will take on Malaysia who have been bolstered by the return of former, and long-time, World No.1 Lee Chong Wei. The two-time Olympic silver medallist returns to action after serving a backdated eight-month doping ban.
Even though his ranking has dipped to 45, opponents will hardly look at his rank as the 32-year-old two-time World Championships silver medallist is still one of the best in the business. However, his rusty form could prove to be his Achilles' heel as he has been out of the circuit for a long time.
Srikanth, in the meantime, has leapfrogged others in the rankings and has the potential of beating the legendary Malaysian.
The competing countries are divided into four groups but only the top twelve make up Group 1, who will be eligible to compete for the trophy, which is among the most coveted in the sport.
The 12 Group 1 teams are further divided into sub-groups of three teams each. The top two teams from each of those four sub-groups will qualify for the quarter-finals and proceed to the knockouts.
Five-time defending champions China find themselves in a relatively easy spot with Germany and Thailand in Group 1A and would be eyeing their 10th title.
Japan, winners of the Thomas Cup and runners-up in the Uber Cup, are in Group 1B with Chinese Taipei and the United States. Group 1C could prove to be the 'Group of Death' as it has three strong teams in Denmark, former champions Indonesia and England.
China have been the most dominant nation in the Sudirman Cup, having won nine titles in 13 editions. Indonesia (once) and South Korea (thrice) are the only other nations to have lifted the trophy.
Indian squad: Manu Attri, Aparna Balan, B. Sumeeth Reddy, Pranaav Chopra, Akshay Dewalkar, Pradnya Gadre, Jwala Gutta, Kidambi Srikanth, H.S. Prannoy, Saina Nehwal, N. Sikki Reddy, Parupalli Kashyap, Ashwini Ponnappa, P.V. Sindhu, Arun Vishnu.