India clinched a whopping 64 medals at the previous edition of the Commonwealth Games. Out of which, four belonged to badminton; two bronze and one each of silver and gold. India had sent nine participants in the badminton contingent and a total of five had managed to bring a medal back home. A speed wooed sport that is based on the agility and perfect timing is considered to be the fastest racket sport in the world. Together with skillful touch and raw power, players can bring down a smash at lightning speeds of over 400 km/h. India has been one of the luckier nations as they are counted among the dominant countries in this particular sport.
Ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Indian team has been drawn in Group A against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Scotland, which might have made their task cut out to progress to the knockout phase of the tournament. The badminton matches will take place in the newly constructed venue Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre.
The Indian contingent has added 10 participants in their badminton team – 5 men and 5 women – Kidambi Srikanth, Prannoy Kumar, Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Pranav Chopra, P V Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Ashwini Ponnappa, Sikki Reddy, Gadde Ruthvika Shivani.
The trio of Srikanth, Sindhu and Nehwal will once again be the spearhead trio of the Indian badminton team. While there will be a hope that the others perform well too, there will be an extra pressure of these three to deliver as they are being considered as the favorites to add a medal each in India’s account in Australia.
World No. 2 Srikanth contested in his maiden Commonwealth Games as a 21-year-old in the 2014 edition. He was just taking his baby steps into the international level. As a beginner with less experience, the Hyderabadi player reached the quarter-final of the singles event. Although he didn’t win it, it was a start for him and for India as well. Four years cut, he is now one of the major contenders for a medal in the upcoming CWG in Australia. So far in 2018, he has played eight matches and won five and lost three. Overall in his singles career, till date, Srikanth has featured in 268 singles matches, winning 179 and has lost 89.
With the Chinese, Koreans, Indonesians and Danes not participating, the biggest threat to Srikanth appears to be the World No 5 Lee Chong Wei. Srikanth has locked horns with the Malaysian for four times and has lost all the matches.
Srikanth might want to be wary of his countrymen too. The likes of HS Prannoy and B Sai Praneeth have defeated him in a final each last year. Pranoy beat Srikanth in the National Badminton Championship final and Praneeth edged him in the Singapore Open final.
There could be no better singles final featuring both the Indian sensations – Sindhu and Nehwal – a dream final, isn’t?
In 2018, Sindhu has played 15 singles matches and has won 12 and lost three. On the other hand, Nehwal has played fewer matches but has faired as good as Sindhu. The World No. 12 has played nine games, winning six and has lost three. Both Nehwal and Sindhu are Olympic and CWG medalist and hence there are no doubts about their potential. While Sindhu has the silver medal at the Rio Olympics 2016 to motivate her, Nehwal has pushed herself back to her old good form after a temporary setback she suffered two years back due to an injury.
Nehwal underwent a surgery in 2016 and returned to the court again at the end of the year. She won the 2017 Malaysia Masters before claiming a World Badminton Championship bronze medal in Glasgow. Adding to that, she sharpened her strokes and on-court movements to become the national champion last year. The fact that she became the first Indian woman shuttler to bag a gold medal in women’s singles at the CWG in 2010 in New Delhi will certainly drive her forward.
Two years back, after Ashwini Ponnappa ended her best partnership in badminton when she decided to split ways from Jwala Gutta, the Bengaluru girl then joined hands with young shuttler Sikki Reddy and now Ashwini will look to emulate her 2010 gold medal with her new partner. The men’s doubles pairing of Chirag Shetty and Saiwik Sairaj are set to make their CWG debut in Australia and India will hope for a positive outcome from the duo. Pranaav Jerry Chopra will pair up with Sikki Reddy for the mixed doubles clashes