India will be fielding a young team at the prestigious Thomas Cup Final, but B. Sai Praneeth believes they have the firepower to not only reach the knockout stage, but also return with a medal.
India didn’t make it to the knockout stage in the last three editions. The last time it played the quarterfinals was in 2010 at Malaysia.
However, world no 18 Praneeth believes the young Indian team can break that jinx when it competes in the tournament at Bangkok, starting on Sunday.
“Competition is tough. All teams are tough. If we could have gone with a full strength team with Kidambi Srikanth and Satwik-Chirag, we had a very good chance to winning Thomas Cup this time. But even now we have a good young team and we can come back with a medal,” Praneeth said.
India has been clubbed with Australia, France and heavyweights China in Group A.
“The draw is okay this time. We have China and France in our group and we have to win against France to make it to the quarterfinals. Last two times we were seeded in 9/16, so we had to play two tough teams in the group but this time we are in top 8 so we got a tougher draw to qualify for the quarterfinal,” said Praneeth.
The 25-year-old from Hyderabad, who had clinched his maiden Super Series title at Singapore Open last year, said the team is focused on beating France on the opening day. “Beating France is easy. Brice Leverdez and Lucas Corvee are good and we can’t take them for granted. If we beat France, we are through to quarterfinal and then we can sit and strategise and if play either Indonesia or Korea, we have good chance in singles,” he said.
World No 9 H.S. Prannoy, Sameer Verma and young Lakshya Sen will lead the challenge in the singles, while national champions doubles pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy and young combo Arjun MR and Ramchandran Shlok will have the responsibility to secure wins in doubles.
Praneeth said: “Prannoy has beaten Korea’s Son Wan Ho, Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen, so we have a good chance. But now the focus is to first reach the quarterfinals.
“We should win in doubles too. Manu and Sumeeth can win one of the matches. They reached the semifinals in Australia, so their confidence is also high. Arjun and Shlok also did well, they can be a surprise element,” he added.