If there ever was a well-prepared Indian badminton team for a major event like the Asiad, Olympics or the Commonwealth Games, then this is it.
Badminton: Medals won by India at CWG
Planning was never a problem in Indian sport, implementation was. The badminton squad overcame that lacunae by starting to prepare in 2006 itself with winning maximum medals at the Delhi Games on it mind. The Badminton Association of India’s CWG camp in 2006 began with 40 probables. The list was pruned to 27 last month and the final team will be announced on Sept 3.
A combination of good preparation and quality players means that Indian shuttlers are confident of vastly improving India’s record in the Games, with at least five medals on their radar. Syed Modi was the last Indian shuttler to win a CWG gold, in Brisbane in 1982, while Prakash Padukone was the first (1978).
There never was a gap on the talent front even after Padukone and Modi and a medal always looked within reach. But no star has glittered as bright and promised so much as Saina Nehwal who will lead India’s charge in Delhi. Saina, whose phenomenal rise in world badminton has been nothing short of incredible, is expected to break the 28-year-old jinx.
Of course, the absence of the formidable Chinese, Indonesians and the Danes will make the job easier for Saina. The 20-year-old’s main and perhaps the only rival is Mew Choo Wong of Malaysia. Saina enjoys a better record against Mew and is expected to beat her for the title.
Should Saina win, she would become the first Indian girl to win a gold at CWG and that would be a fitting reward as Saina’s rise actually started on this very stage in 2006. It was during the Melbourne Games that the then coach Vimal Kumar chose Saina as the top singles player against Singapore in the bronze medal match in place of Aparna Popat. That decision had come as shocker for many but Saina beat better ranked players to help India to the bronze.
The next best bet is the mixed doubles pair of V Diju and Jwala Gutta. The duo would be the top-ranked team at the CWG and is expected to finish on top.
There is hope for the Indians in the overall team event too. With India having a fair chance of winning the women’s singles and mixed doubles, the onus will be on women’s doubles pair of Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa. In all likelihood, Malaysia will be the main rivals for the hosts in the team event.
In the men’s section, Chetan Anand and Parupalli Kashyap, who India are likely to field, can finish on the podium. World No.1 Lee Chong Wei is expected to take the field and will be the man to beat. However, Wei has a habit of crashing out in the early rounds to little-known opponents. Indians would be praying for it to happen.
With 18 medals at stake including six gold, badminton should bolster India’s medals tally handsomely.
Men: 1. Chetan Anand, 2. P. Kashyap, 3. Arvind Bhatt, 4. Anup Sridhar, 5. Anand Pawar, 6. RMV Gurusaidutt, 7. B Sai Praneeth, 8. Ajay Jairam, 9. HS Prannoy, 10. Sanave Thomas, 11. Rupesh Kumar, 12. Akshay Dewalkar, 13. Arun Vishnu, 14. Tarun Kona, 15. Pranav Chopra, 16. V Diju.
Women: 1.Saina Nehwal, 2. Aditi Mutatkar, 3. Trupti Murugunde, 4. Sayali Gokhale, 5. PV Sindhu, 6. PC Thulasi, 7. Jwala Gutta, 8. Ashwini Ponnappa, 9. Shruti Kurian, 10. Aparna Balan, 11. Prajakta Sawant.
Chief coach: Pullela Gopichand.