Saurav Ghosal pulls out from Asian Team Championships
In a major blow to India’s hopes, the country’s No. 1 men’s player Saurav Ghosal was forced to pull out from the upcoming 18th Asian Team Championship scheduled to be held in Chinese Taipei from May 11-15. The World No. 18 has not recovered from an ankle injury he sustained while playing his first round match at the British Open in March.
A subsequent MRI had revealed ‘deterioration in the cartilage’ because of which Saurav was off for a month from the PSA Tour and had only recently returned at the El Gouna International where he lost in the opening round. But the pain in the right foot did not subside which made him consult doctors again.
It unfortunately, turned out that the Kolkata player would run the risk of permanently damaging his foot if he did not attend to the problem soon. The corrective procedures would be taking up a chunk of Saurav’s schedule and can put out him out for four to five weeks.
Velavan Senthilkumar to replace Saurav
Thus, the U-19 national champion and one of India’s best Indian rising stars, Velavan Senthilkumar has been named as his replacement. Another youngster – Vijaykumar Meena – too would be making his debut as the Sekisui Open winner Mahesh Mangaonkar has opted to focus on gaining valuable points from PSA tournament play.
There is, however, a silver lining as former national champion Harinderpal Sandhu will be making his long-awaited comeback after suffering from a hamstrung injury at the South Asian Games in February.
The 19-year-old World No. 95 Kush Kumar will be completing the four-man line-up, who will be looking to do better than their bronze medal finish at the 2014 edition in Hong Kong.
It is indeed a huge responsibility on the tender shoulders of the teenage brigade but they are not entirely unfamiliar to performing under pressure or to the burgeoning expectations while representing one’s nation.
Kush Kumar has been a bronze medallist at the World Junior Championships and has been making rapid strides over the past one year. He has already won one PSA title and this year, he was the one responsible for bringing home the men’s team gold medal at the South Asian Games when he toppled a much higher-ranked Farhan Zaman of Pakistan.
The 18-year-old Senthilkumar too has tasted glory at an international meet before when he grabbed a couple of medals from the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2015.
Joshna, Dipika lead the women’s team
In contrast, the women’s team will be full strength as both the Commonwealth Games doubles gold medallists – Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal – will be participating at this continental meet. The two senior stars will be leading the way along with juniors, Sachika Ingale and Akanksha Salunkhe.
Just like the men, the women too had clinched the bronze in the last edition. With the two top-20 stars in the squad, India will be making a serious push for a top-two podium finish this time.