Badminton: New-look Indian team ready for Sudirman Cup
An Indian team that is a nice blend of youth and experience will have to punch above its weight in what's going to be an arduous challenge in the Sudirman Cup mixed team championships in Finland on Sunday. India have been drawn in Group A alongside defending champions China, three-time semi-finalists Thailand and hosts Finland in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournament.
Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu pulled out of the tournament
With many of its star shuttlers missing, the Indian team will have tasks cut out when it starts its campaign against Thailand in the World Mixed Team Championship. With PV Sindhu excusing herself following a hectic Olympic campaign and Saina Nehwal also giving it a miss, the onus will be on the shoulders of Malvika Bansod and Aditi Bhatt in women's singles.
Chirag Shetty pulled out of tournament after suffering from injury
In men's doubles, world no 10 Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy too withdrew after the former suffered from muscle pull and was advised a week's rest. In their absence, young Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun will have to deliver the goods in men's doubles.
India have plenty of experience in men's singles, women's doubles
India, however, does have plenty of experience in men's singles and women's doubles with B Sai Praneeth, Kidambi Srikanth, and the pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy in the team. First up for India will be Thailand, which has reached the semifinals thrice -- 2013, 2017, and 2019. Notably, the 2013 World Champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand has withdrawn from the tournament.
Following Thai badminton players are competing
The 17-member Thailand squad will be led by Asian Games bronze medalist Pornpawee Chochuwong and world no 13 Busanan Ongbamrungphan in women's singles, while Kantaphon Wangcharoen will be the top player in men's singles. India will be competing against the world no 8 women's pair of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai, and world no 3 Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattana Chai in mixed doubles.
India will face China on September 27
Notably, India will face China on September 27 and Finland on September 29. China has won the title 11 times in the past and has named a formidable team, including Olympic champion Chen Yufei and former All England champion Shi Yu Qi, for the event.
Finland have never qualified for the knockout stage
The Chinese men's doubles squad includes the world no 21 men's doubles pair of He Ji Ting and Tan Qiang, Lu Guang Zu, Li Shi Feng, He Bing Jiao, Wang Zhi Yi, Liu Cheng, and Feng Yan Zhe. The third and final team in the group stage will be hosts Finland who have never qualified for the knockout stage at the mixed team championships.
India first participated in the tournament in 2009
Notably, the tournament comprises two singles and three doubles matches in a tie. The top two teams from each group progress to the knockout round (quarterfinals). The quarter-final draw will be held immediately after the last group match. India first participated in the tournament in 2009 and finished at the quarter-final stage in the 2011 edition.