Thomas and Uber Cup 2018: Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy lead depleted Indian teams
Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy have a tough task at hand as they lead depleted Indian teams at the prestigious Thomas and Uber Cup 2018, scheduled to be held in Bangkok, Thailand from May 20-27. The Indian women grabbed bronze in the last two editions at the Uber Cup, but this time chances of a repeat look bleak, with PV Sindhu and the Commonwealth Games bronze medal-winning women’s doubles team of Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa not being present in the contingent.
While Sindhu and Ponnappa are resting and Reddy is recovering from a bout of typhoid, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) chose to give the talented youngsters a priceless opportunity to gain some much-needed experience by playing the world’s best.
For the likes of Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka, Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli, Anura Prabhudesai and Vaishanavi Bhale, it will be a tall order against Japan, Canada and Australia with whom India have been clubbed in Group A. None of them is ranked in the top 50 in the world and it would need a monumental effort from the young brigade to give the Commonwealth Games champion Nehwal the required support.
In doubles, India will be relying on Meghana Jakkampudi-Poorvisha S Ram and Prajakta Sawant-Sanyogita Ghorpade. Suffice to say, they will have their task cut out against the likes of the formidable Japanese team.
India's chances in Thomas Cup look slightly better
India’s Thomas Cup squad looks better, even though World No. 4 Kidambi Srikanth is conspicuous by his absence. After a hectic schedule that saw him play at the Commonwealth Games and the Badminton Asia Championships last month, the 25-year-old has opted out.
The onus thus lies on the World No. 9 HS Prannoy, who won a bronze medal at the continental championships. He would look to bring that form and confidence as he spearheads India’s challenge and aims to take India to the knock-out stages for the first time in nine years.
Prannoy will get support from the World No. 18 Sai Praneeth and the World No. 21 Sameer Verma, both of whom got vital match practice at the New Zealand Open and the Australian Open ahead of the Thomas Cup. Verma, especially, has been pretty good this season and captured the Swiss Open in February. He is very much capable of causing a few upsets if he keeps believing in himself.
This will also be the first foray into a competition of such a high level for former junior World No. 1 Lakshya Sen. The 16-year-old took a game off the two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan recently in Auckland, showing that he refuses to be intimidated by the big names of the sport. He will have to bring that quality into play at the Thomas Cup.
In the absence of the Commonwealth Game silver medallists, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, the doubles campaign will be led by the former India No. 1 pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy. The two put up an encouraging show in New Zealand and Australia, which has now taken them to World No. 22 in the rankings.
Besides Attri and Reddy, Shlok Ramchandran-MR Arjun and Sanyam Shukla-Arun George will be making their debut. India have been placed in Group A alongside nine-time champions China, France and Australia in Group A.
About their chances at the Thomas Cup, Sumeeth Reddy recently told Sportskeeda, “We will be competing with a step-below team.
“So, I think we should be freely playing whichever matches we can and not think too much about the results. When we don’t have the strongest players playing from India, we just have to have faith in ourselves. Just wait for your opponent to crack down.
“The pressure is actually on the top teams. For them, they have to win every match and they would be thinking that these are not the top guys.”
Here is all the information you need to know about India’s Sunday matches:
Tournament name: Thomas and Uber Cup 2018
Category: Grade 1 Team Tournament
Venue: Bangkok, Thailand
Round: Group stage
Date: Sunday, May 20, 2018
Schedule of India’s matches:
India vs France at 7.30am IST (Group A)
India vs Canada at 12.30pm IST (Group A)
Live Updates: On Sportskeeda