Time for fringe players to stake their claim

The big guns of Asian badminton including Saina Nehwal and P. Kashyap of India, Chen Long, champion Lin Dan (from China) and Lee Chong Wei will not be participating, for different reasons, at the Badminton Asia team championship for men and women starting at the Gachibhowli Indoor Stadium here on Monday.

In the absence of Saina Nehwal, P. V. Sindhu will spearhead the Indian challenge   -  PTI

The big guns of Asian badminton including Saina Nehwal and P. Kashyap of India, Chen Long, champion Lin Dan (from China) and Lee Chong Wei will not be participating, for different reasons, at the Badminton Asia team championship for men and women starting at the Gachibhowli Indoor Stadium here on Monday.

China’s top women shuttlers Li Xurei and Wang Yihan will also not be here, a scenario which might just suggest that the championship may have lost its glamour quotient.

Great opportunity

But India’s chief national coach P. Gopi Chand insists that this is exactly what ensures that no team can take it for granted about its prospects.

“Saina not playing is a big blow. But spare a thought for all those who gave their heart out and won medals in the recent South Asian Games. For them this is a huge opportunity to showcase their skills. Still, I believe India is a very balanced outfit and can make the cut for the Thomas and the Uber Cups [the semifinalists here quality for the two prestigious events],” Gopi said.

Raring to go

World No. 12 P.V. Sindhu, who will be spearheading the Indian women’s singles challenge, feels it is a comparatively good draw for her team having to play Singapore and Japan. Smarting under the shock defeat to Ruthvika Shivani in the South Asian Games final last week, she said that all her teammates are fit and raring to go.

Sindhu might also play in the doubles because of an injury worry to one of the specialists. “I am ready for any challenge,” she said.

However, it will be a more difficult proposition for the Indian men’s team as it is grouped with top-seed China and Singapore.

What really could spur the fringe players,who are still gunning for a slot in the Rio Olympics,is that all of them can look to swell their world ranking points here. Obviously for China, having clinched the maximum two spots in all but one event, this incentive doesn’t mean much though Hong Kong Open doubles finalists Tian Qing & Zhao Yunlei and Tang Yuanting & Yu Yang are still in the race for a spot in the top eight to be eligible for the Rio Games.

In case of Japan, which is fielding a formidable outfit here, the second men’s singles player Sho Sasaki is still nursing hopes of breaking into the top 16.

Significantly, Malaysia is not fielding any men’s player who can have a shot at the Rio Olympics slot.

Indonesian coach and former world doubles champion, Rexy Mainaky, confesses that they have a young team here and the first objective is to make it to the quarterfinal stage with World No. 10 Tommy Sugiarto expected to be the guiding force.

Monday’s schedule: Men: Korea vs Philippines; Indonesia vs Maldives; Chinese Taipei vs Thailand.

Women: China vs Hong Kong China; Thailand vs Sri Lanka.