Following the historic bronze in the previous edition, Indian badminton fans will once again pin their hopes on the women’s team led by Saina Nehwal but it appears to be a tough task for the struggling men’s side at the Thomas and Uber Cup starting in Kunshan, China on Sunday.
Having reached the Uber Cup quarter-finals in 2010, the women’s side clinched its maiden bronze in 2014 after going down 2-3 to eventual runners-up Japan in the semi-finals.
Clubbed alongside Japan, Australia and Germany, India will have a strong field in women’s singles with Rio-bound Saina and P.V. Sindhu. The choice of the third singles player will be among Ruthvika Shivani Gadde, Tanvi Lad and P.C. Thulasi.
The onus of doubles will be on the 2010 Commonwealth Games champions duo of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy and K. Maneesha for the second doubles.
India will face Australia in their Group D opener on Monday, before taking on Germany and Japan in the next two days respectively at the Kunshan Sports Centre.
With the top two sides progressing to the quarter-finals, India should not have problems in finishing above Australia and Germany, while Japan will be a huge challenge.
Meanwhile, in Thomas Cup, India’s chances will rely on the shoulders of Ajay Jayaram, B. Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma with Kidambi Srikanth and injured H.S. Prannoy missing the tournament. World No.21 Jayaram will be India’s highest-ranked player.
The doubles responsibility will be shared by Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy.
In Group B, Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong are there and it will be very tough for India to wriggle out of the group. Thailand will be India’s first opponent on Sunday.