Badminton: Who is India's next Saina Nehwal or PV Sindhu?
As Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu enter the second half of their respective careers, the hunt is on for India's next female badminton star. Here are 5 prospects that you should keep an eye on.
Two women have put India's name right on top in the international badminton circuit for some years now. Once mentored and coached by former All England Champion Pullela Gopichand, Saina Nehwal got the limelight in international badminton around a decade back. Soon after, there was PV Sindhu, another badminton player, who joined her at the top. The duo of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu have achieved everything to be honoured as "legends of women's badminton", where they have won almost everything, including the medals on offer at the Olympics and World Championships.
While experts may feel it will be tough for upcoming female shuttlers to replicate what these two have done, let us look at least five of them who can take forward the legacy of these two.
Ashmita Chaliha (Born on 18 October 1999)
Ashmita Chaliha is from Guwahati and started her training at the age of 7 at the Assam Badminton Academy. She is currently trained by Indonesian Coach Edwin Iriawan (Coach of the Indian contingent at the 2012 London Olympics) and India's Suranjan Bhobora. She got limelight in last year's Senior Badminton Championship Semi-final in Guwahati, where she was up against PV Sindhu. Ashmita showed glimpses of her skill and what's in store for the future. She is currently ranked at 88 and already has two BWF titles to her name. She won her Maiden senior International title at the Dubai International event and also made the cut for the 2018 Asian games squad.
Aakarshi Kashyap (Born on 24 August 2001)
Aakarshi Kashyap is an Indian badminton player from Chhattisgarh, and she holds the Number 1 ranking in the Badminton Association of India (BAI) rankings for the past two years. She had won her maiden BWF singles title in Kenya International Tournament. Aakarshi also has a couple of Runner-up finish at Uganda International (2020) and Bulgarian International (2018). She was also part of the Senior National Team that won Gold in the 2019 South Asian Games. She had a career-best ranking of 104, but now she has slipped to 115.
Malvika Bansod (Born on 15 September 2001)
Malvika Bansod, who hails from Nagpur, was just 18 when she won on her senior debut in the Maldives International Future Series (2019). The 19-year-old is training under chief Indian National junior coach Sanjay Mishra at Raipur. She has also represented India at Junior World Championship in Canada. Malvika is currently ranked at 139 and has a bright future ahead.
Mugdha Agrey (Born on 19 April 1999)
Mugdha Agrey has been training in Nagpur for the past six years under the guidance of Coach Jibi Verghese. She was the highest ranked player after Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu with a ranking of 59, but now she has slipped to 93. She won the singles title in the All India Senior Ranking Badminton tournament which happened in Guntur.
Gayatri Gopichand (Born on 04 March 2003)
Gayatri is the daughter of Pullela Gopichand. She was part of the national team which clinched Gold at the 2019 South Asian Games. However, her most significant achievement was when she got selected for the 2018 Asian Games at a very young age of 15. Then, she had a career-best ranking of 200, but now she has dropped to 213.