Sudirman Cup: Gauging the present of Indian Badminton
Sudirman Cup travels for the first time to Australian shores since its inception in 1989. Come the third week of May, in the picturesque Gold Coast would be where the battle for the Sudirman Cup is fought. The title of world champion is up for grabs. A mixed team world championship that happens every two years, the stakes are high in this tournament with leading badminton nations putting their best foot forward to lay stake to the coveted trophy.
Unsurprising as it seems, China have won more number of titles than anyone else in the competition’s history. A display of enviable Chinese strength in all the five formats of singles and doubles makes it ‘the’ team to beat in this competition. As the history goes, India have never gone past the quarterfinals in this competition. This should not come as surprise given that the doubles was India’s Achilles heel and continues to be so.
India are seeded 9th and are in group 1D along with 2016 Thomas Cup champions Denmark and inaugural winner, six-time runners-up at this competition and 2016 Thomas Cup runners-up Indonesia. Both these teams are seeded above India with Indonesia seeded sixth and Denmark second. Both teams have World beaters in their ranks and India would not have an easy pass to the knockouts. With the team yet to be officially announced, we take a guess look at what is in store for the Indians.
India have two champion players in Olympic Silver Medallist P V Sindhu and the comeback girl Saina Nehwal, both of whom are in top ten of the world rankings at the moment. Given the form and force she is, Sindhu will undoubtedly take the honour of the number one singles player without a doubt. Line Kjaersfeldt is the top-ranked Dane while either of Fitriani or Dinar Dyah Ayustine might represent Indonesia.
Both Sindhu and Saina have won against Fitriani earlier this year. With Saina seemingly unavailable, though, it would be interesting to see whether the Indian contingent would field a backup Singles player. Expect a thumping win for India in Women’s singles.
India might field two of Srikanth Kidambi, Sai Praneeth and Ajay Jayaram in the Men's singles. With one of Viktor Axelsen or Jan Ø. Jørgensen in play for Denmark and the experienced Tommy Sugiarto for Indonesia, It is tough to predict which way the momentum can shift during the crucial tie for the Indian players. While the reigning European and Dubai super series Champion Viktor Axelsen has a clear upper hand, Srikanth has played and won against all the three players.
He even has a head to head record of 2-1 against Axelsen which should give the Indian side fair share of confidence going into the tie. Srikanth is definitely capable of upset wins and his experience in playing these players will be very useful. But Both Sai Praneeth and Ajay are ahead of Srikanth in Rankings. It would be an interesting selection to watch out for. Whoever represents the tie, it would undoubtedly be a mouth-watering clash.
Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy are all but confirmed to represent India in mixed doubles. It would be an interesting prospect to see whether Sikki would play both mixed and women’s doubles. With all the ties happening on the same day, it would be a tiring prospect for her. The Denmark pair of Joachim Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen and Indonesian pairs Tontowi Ahmed/Liliyana Natsir, Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto are ranked higher than Indians.
While Rio Champion Liliyana Natsir is unavailable due to Injury, Debby Susanto might play in the tie.The best result the Indian pair had in 2017 was winning the Syed Modi International badminton championships. While they have not achieved significant success after that, both Pranaav and Sikki are capable of attacking game and causing upsets. It would be an understatement to say India winning would be dependent on the results of the pair.
Indonesia and Denmark are the top two teams in the rankings represented by Marcus Gideon/Kevin Sukamuljo of Indonesia and Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen of Denmark. These two teams are on the top of their game. Between themselves, they have won All England, Malaysian Open, Indian Open, and Singapore Open, all of these in just 2017. Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri are best placed Indian doubles team in the rankings.
The Indian pair hasn’t had considerable success in 2017. It would be an insurmountable hurdle for the Indian pair to come victorious in their clashes. While sports has a consistent repertoire in producing dramatic champions, it would be hoping against hope for this pair to win their matches.
India’s best bet would be Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa who are ranked 26th in the world. While Indonesia has multiple teams in the top twenty of the rankings, Denmark would pin their hopes on world number two Kamilla Juhl and Christinna Pedersen. While the Indians are still a work in progress, it would be interesting to see if they can win against the Indonesians.
With the Denmark pair having the same conundrum regarding their doubles and mixed doubles specialists, it would be crucial for India to get their player strategy right. The result against Indonesia for this pair can decide the progress of Indians in the tournament. They win and it provides an impetus to mount a challenge and advance. They lose and it could be an impediment.Published 12 May 2017, 15:44 IST