"We can get at least bronze," says Indian junior badminton coach Sanjay Mishra ahead of World Junior Mixed Team Championships
This was the first time that a scheduled and planned camp was held for the Indian junior shuttlers before they embarked on their three-week tour of the Asian Junior U-15 and U-17 Championships, the World Junior Mixed Team Championships and the World Junior Individual Championships. And the results were there for all to see.
The talented brigade made history at the first tournament held in Yangon, Myanmar where the contingent had a rich haul of four medals among which Samiya Imad Farooqui’s U-15 women’s singles gold medal was the jewel in the crown.
The expectations are naturally higher from the youngsters after such a fabulous show. Indian junior national coach Sanjay Mishra too sounded pumped up when Sportskeeda caught up with him for an exclusive chat.
The World Junior No. 2 Lakshya Sen, who is already a star in his own right, will be leading the challenge at both the world meets. India, who have received a 5/8th seeding, are placed in Group D alongside the 9/16th seeded Sweden, the 17/45th seeded Hungary, the 17/45th seeded Australia and the 17/45th seeded USA at the mixed team championships that gets under way at Yogjakarta, Indonesia on October 9.
Coach Mishra acknowledged that Sweden can be challenging opponents but expressed confidence that his wards can top the group.
“Sweden is good but Hungary, Australia and USA should be manageable. In our group, we can be the No. 1.”
Regarding India’s medal-winning chances, Mishra wanted to remain pragmatic since Korea, China and the likes can pose quite a threat. Nevertheless, at least a bronze medal can be expected from the squad, he said.
“We have a very good chance of a medal even in individual championships also. In the team championships, we can get at least a bronze medal. Korea is very good. They won the Asian Junior Team Championships. China, Malaysia, Indonesia are also there. This is the Worlds after all. Everybody will want to play well,” he pointed out.
Having Lakshya Sen in the squad boosts confidence
Having the ever-improving Lakshya Sen in the squad certainly brightens India’s medal-winning chances. Sen is now perched at a career-best 104th in the BWF World Rankings and has already been the numero uno player in the junior section. He has already started creating ripples in the circuit.
He celebrated his 16th birthday in August by winning the Bulgarian Open which was the second title at the International level of his fledgling career.
Sen’s presence naturally elevates the confidence level of the entire team and bolsters the contingent’s chances for an individual medal. However, the cautious Mishra explained that the draw plays a big role, besides which how a particular player will feel on the day of the match can never be ascertained beforehand.
“Yes, Lakshya is playing very good but you know, it all depends on the draw in the individual championships. The draw is yet to be released, so we can get a better idea of his chances when it is out,” he said.
“That said, a lot depends on how a particular player is feeling or doing on the day of the match,” he added.
14-year-old Gayatri Gopichand juggled duties in both the U-15 and the U-17 sections at the recently-concluded Asian Junior Championships, apart from which she is also a part of the squad at the World team meet. On being asked if playing so many competitions at the top level can be a burden for the youngster, the coach refused to agree although he did add that the higher-ranked players like Aakarshi Kashyap and Purva Barve are likely to get preference.
“Gayatri is there in the world team but it is not yet confirmed whether she will play on the day. It’s just for the women’s singles. We have Aakarshi, Purva, so let’s see,” he signed off.