India beats Thailand to reach Badminton Asia Team Championships semis

The Indian men's team came from 0-2 down to beat Thailand 3-2 in the Badminton Asia Team Championships quarterfinals on Friday, assuring itself a medal.

Indian players and support staff celebrate the side's win over Thailand in the quarters of the Badminton Asia Team Championships on Friday.   -  Twitter (@BAI_Media)

The Indian men’s team assured itself a medal after progressing to the semifinals with a thrilling 3-2 win over Thailand at the Badminton Asia Team Championships in Manila, Philippines, on Friday.

After star shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Sai Praneeth faced defeats in the first two singles matches, India fought back and won the next three encounters, which included one singles and two doubles rubbers. With this win, India sets up a meeting with two-time defending champion Indonesia in a last-four clash.

The men’s team had last won a bronze medal in Hyderabad in the 2016 edition of the tournament. World Championships bronze medallist Praneeth started the proceedings. But his gallant effort ended in a 14-21 21-14 12-21 loss to world No. 12 Kantaphon Wangcharoen, as India trailed 0-1.

In the second singles, former world No. 1 Srikanth went down 20-22 14-21 to Kunlavut Vitidsarn, a three-time world junior champion, as India slipped to 0-2. The pairing of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila kept India in the hunt with a 21-18 22-20 win over Kittinupong Kedren and Tanupat Viriyangkura in the first doubles.

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Young Lakshya Sen, who had a stellar run in 2019, then registered a 21-19 21-18 win over world No. 45 Suppanyu Avihingsanon, as India drew level at 2-2.

It then boiled down to the makeshift pairing of Chirag Shetty and Srikanth in the tie decider. The Indian duo dished out a wonderful game to outwit Maneepong Jongjit and Nipitphon Phuangphuapet 21-15 16-21 21-15 in the second doubles to hand India the quarterfinal win.

“It is an incredible result for us considering the fact that we didn’t have Satwiksairaj (Rankireddy) and we generally depend on the singles to get us the win. But after we lost the first two singles, the way we got that doubles win and then Lakshya brought us back to level, it was a complete team effort,” Chirag told PTI.

India, which had lost to China 1-3 in the last-eight of the 2018 edition, will now lock horns with Indonesia in the semifinals.

Indonesia boasts of Asian Games champion and world number seven Jonathan Christie and world number five Anthony Sinisuka Ginting. It also has the world number one pair of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, apart from the formidable Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan.

“Beating Indonesia will be a difficult task because they have such formidable doubles pairs and even in singles, there players are ranked in top 10, so tough but if we can put the best foot foward like today, we hope to do well,” added Chirag.

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