Saina unlikely to play in Asian Team Badminton Ch’ship

Saina has not trained at the Gopichand Academy along with the other Indian shuttlers. Gopichand also said that Parupalli Kashyap will not be playing as he is recovering from an abdominal injury.

Saina Nehwal has not trained at the Gopichand Academy along with the other Indian shuttlers.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

India's ace woman shuttler Saina Nehwal is unlikely to play in the Asian Team Badminton Championship starting here on February 15.

Chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, however, was non-committal on this subject except saying that Saina is in the Indian team and that he is yet to get any official communication from her.

Importantly, Saina has not trained at the Gopichand Academy along with the other Indian shuttlers. Gopichand also said that Parupalli Kashyap will not be playing as he is recovering from an abdominal injury.

Doubles player G. Jwala said she was not aware whether Saina was playing or not. “But it will be a big blow to India's campaign in women's singles because of her experience and ranking if she doesn't play,” Jwala remarked.

Questioned if Saina's withdrawal would put extra pressure on other players, including the women's doubles featuring her and Ashwini Ponappa, Jwala said they were quite used to these sorts of situations.

“The best part is I am really enjoying my training sessions now and this is the kind of support we were looking for women's doubles after winning the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold,” Jwala said when asked how different it was training with a Malaysian doubles specialist coach.

“Yes, this Asian team championship is immensely helpful, especially playing at home in the run-up to the Olympics. It gives us a chance to make a critical assessment of the areas to focus,” Jwala said.

“We are aware of the very strong women's doubles combinations in this championship, but also remember me and Ashwini have beaten some of the top players in the recent past,” she added.