Difficult for Manika Batra to repeat her 2018 medal haul at CWG 2022: Somdev Devvarman
Manika Batra catapulted to stardom with her 4-medal haul at the CWG last time, but Somdev Devvarman feels it would be hard to match that feat this time around.
Being one of the show-stopper disciplines for India at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, table tennis has seen a huge rise ever since star paddler Manika Batra's 4-medal haul from the event - but at the upcoming Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022, the chances of either Batra being able to repeat the feat or Indian table tennis doing well, remains stark, feels former CWG tennis gold medallist Somdev Devvarman.
Speaking to the media in an exclusive interaction, the former India No. 1 tennis star who will be a part of the panel for Sony's coverage elaborately discussed India's chances in racquet sports this time around at the Games.
"PV Sindhu will go in as a clear favourite, she already has a bronze and a silver from the past two CWGs, aside from gold from the mixed team event. Based on her title-winning performance in Singapore Open, it will be interesting to see how she will handle the pressure of having a target on her back because she is head and shoulders the best player on the squad," Devvarman said, mentioning how he will be surprised if Sindhu doesn't win gold from the event.
While Devvarman is optimistic about India's chances at badminton and thinks the Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu-led brigade can easily defend their mixed team gold and also win individual medals across all the categories, Devvarman remains sceptical about India's chances in table tennis.
At the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the table tennis contingent bagged 8 medals - a stupendous feat in itself. However, this time around, with a fairly new-looking squad, especially in the women's section, the chances are stark.
"It's not going to be easy at all. Manika had 4 medals herself. It'll be a massive effort. It's one thing to come out here and win 4 medals and then 4 years later, come back and repeat the feat," Somdev realistically put forward.
"There is a lot that has changed - it depends on how well they will handle the pressure, stay in sync. If there is good camaraderie in the team, players can get each other out in the toughest moments. If they can do that, nothing like it. But 8 medals would be hard but we can hope for a good performance still given how the veterans like Achanta Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran present as well," Devvarman said.
"Overall, badminton, table tennis and squash included, we can expect around 15 medals, if it is more than that, nothing like it," the former pro tennis player mentioned.
A Neeraj-less Commonwealth Games 2022
While discussing India's chances, Somdev also mentioned how the absence of Neeraj Chopra will factor in. Famously, Somdev Devvarman, along with others, had composed a song to celebrate Chopra's gold medal win at the Tokyo Olympics.
"Sadly, there won't be any song for Neeraj this time," Somdev said with a chuckle.
"Neeraj Chopra was going in as a heavy favourite and now he is not a part of the squad. These kinds of unexpected things happen - sometimes players get unlucky for whatever reasons and unfortunate things happen."
"It's a big blow for India. This guy has gone from being an absolute superstar and he has handled the pressure so well. It's tough to see one of your favourite athletes going through such injury troubles but he has held his composure really well. There are the Diamond League matches also next, hopefully, he recovers before that," Somdev mentioned.
"But there are other sports that I'm looking forward to at the Commonwealth Games. I feel like the places where we can see a lot of medals are wrestling and weightlifting. One thing I really look forward to seeing is cricket. I want to see India do well in hockey as well, and after having talks with Viren (Rasquinha, former Indian hockey captain) and he has told me that both teams look to be in good form and want to medal," Somdev said.
With just one day to go for the Games to begin, all eyes will be on the 215 athletes looking for glory at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 as India prepares to better their 66-medal haul at the multi-sporting extravganza.
Watch the LIVE coverage of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on SONY SIX, SONY TEN 1, SONY TEN 2, SONY TEN 4 (English) & SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) channels starting from 29th July 2022 at 12:30 am IST.