India’s first-ever bronze medal at the Asia Badminton Mixed team championships has shown that the country can win the Sudirman Cup this year, feels former national coach Vimal Kumar.
India on Saturday narrowly went down 2-3 to formidable China in the semifinals to sign off their campaign with a maiden bronze medal in Dubai. It was a creditable performance since India were without the services of an injured Satwiksairaj Rankireddy but the men's pair of Chirag Shetty-Dhruv Kapila and young women’s doubles duo of Treesa Jolly-Gayatri Gopichand dished out superlative shows to take India to the semifinals.
“Once Satwik comes back, we will have a strong doubles pair and our singles have always been strong. Prannoy and Sindhu are also capable of beating anybody. So I feel we have a decent chance to win the Sudirman Cup,” Vimal, who was present when the men’s team won the Thomas Cup title last year, told PTI.
“The ladies doubles have also shown good level, especially Treesa and Gayatri beating the Malaysian top doubles pair (world no 4 Tan Pearly and Thinaah Muralitharan) will give them a lot of confidence. We can't say it's too ambitious (to win Sudirman Cup). We can. It is exactly what we did in Thomas cup. We can be hopeful after this performance.”
Sudirman Cup is the mixed team competition at the global level. India had sealed their first-ever continental bronze medal after beating Hong Kong in the quarterfinals on Friday. The feat also helped India earn direct qualification to the Sudirman Cup scheduled to be held in Suzhou, China from May 14-21.
“It was a good bronze medal. Though I am a bit disappointed as we had a good chance of beating China yesterday. It would have been good to beat China. It is the first time in history we came so close to beating them. We have always struggled in mixed team events,” Vimal said.
He said India could have won the tournament as well, considering the team had beaten Malaysia and Hong Kong. “Creditable performance from men's doubles and women's doubles. I will give them a lot of credit. They did a good job, unlike the singles. Normally our strength is singles but even though Satwik couldn't play, the doubles pairs played well against Hong Kong and China. The women’s pair especially showed marked improvement.
“It is disappointing that singles lost, if one of them could have won, it would have taken us to finals. Many players from China are injured, so they gave a chance to these guys who were injured for some time.”
World number nine H S Prannoy lost to Lei Lan Xi 13-21, 15-21, while double Olympic medallist P V Sindhu suffered a 9-21 21-16 18-21 defeat to Gao Fang Jie. Dhruv Kapila and Chirag Shetty then beat He Ji Ting and Zhou Hao Dong 21-19, 21-19, while Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand defeated Liu Sheng Shu and Tan Ning 21-18 13-21 21-19 to bring India back into the contest.
The mixed doubles combination of Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto suffered 17-21 13-21 defeat to Jiang Zhen Bang and Wei Ya Xin as India lost the tie 2-3. Vimal was left disappointed with the singles performance, especially Sindhu.
“Prannoy was playing well, so it was a little disappointing. If he had taken the second game, he could have found a way. He didn't have any idea how to play as he was playing for the first time, so he struggled. “Sindhu was comfortably placed after the second game. After the injury, I think she is struggling to vary the pace during rallies, when to push the pace and it let her down.”
Former world championships bronze medallist Lakshya Sen didn't have a good outing as he had lost in three games to Hong Kong's NG Ka Long Angus. Vimal said: “He is losing close matches but I’ll give him some time. He went through two surgeries — nose and shoulder — after the commonwealth Games. He has not fully recovered from that.
"He is training well and I feel he is still playing at a good level. It all depends on the day as the competition in the top 20 is quite tough.”
Talking about Treesa and Gayatri, Vimal said: “Definitely they are all very young, the more they play such tough matches, they will get better. Priority now is to compete in as many good matches as possible. They need to play more abroad against Korean, Chinese and Japanese.”