An Indian team which is a 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 here on Sunday.
India is drawn in Group A alongside defending champion China, three-time semifinalist Thailand and host Finland in the BWF tournament, which comprises two singles and three doubles matches in a tie.
With many of its star shuttlers missing, the Indian team will have task cut out when it starts campaign against Thailand in the prestigious World Mixed Team Championship.
With double Olympic medallist and reigning world champion P. V. Sindhu excusing herself following a hectic Olympic campaign and former world no 1 Saina Nehwal also giving it a miss, the onus will be on youngsters Malvika Bansod and Aditi Bhatt in women's singles.
In men's doubles, world no 10 Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy too withdrew at the last moment after the former suffered from muscle pull (Abs) 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, 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. With 2013 World Champion Ratchanok Intanon withdrawing, the 17-member Thailand squad will be led by Asian Games (women's team) bronze medallist and world no 10 Pornpawee Chochuwong and world no 13 Busanan Ongbamrungphan in women's singles, while world no 18 Kantaphon Wangcharoen will be the top player in men's singles.
India will also have to get the better of World no 8 women's pair of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai, world no 3 Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattana Chai in mixed doubles among others.
After Thailand, 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. World no 21 men's doubles pair of He Ji Ting and Tan Qiang has also been named in the squad, which also comprises 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 host Finland, which has never never qualified for the knockout stage at the mixed team championships. The top two teams from each group progress to the knockout round (quarterfinals). The quarterfinal draw will be held after the last group match.
India first participated in the tournament in 2009 and reached the quarterfinal in the 2011 edition.
Where to watch?
The India vs Thailand Sudirman Cup 2021 tie can be watched live on Star Sports 2 and 3 and can also be streamed on Disney+ Hotstar from 12:30 p.m. onwards on Sunday.