Uphill task for Indian shuttlers at Thomas and Uber Cup Finals

With senior shuttlers P.V. Sindhu (World No. 3) and Kidambi Srikanth (World No. 4) being rested, Saina and Prannoy will be the only star attraction at the World team championships.

The women’s team has been placed alongside Canada, Australia and heavyweight Japan in group A.   -  V.V. Subrahmanyam

A depleted but young team, led by Saina Nehwal and H.S. Prannoy, will face the arduous task of punching above its weight when the Thomas and Uber Cup Final gets underway here on Sunday.

With senior shuttlers P.V. Sindhu (World No. 3) and Kidambi Srikanth (World No. 4) being rested, Saina and Prannoy will be the only star attraction at the World team championships, where the women’s team has won two bronze medals in the last two editions, while the male counterparts have failed to reach the knockouts in last eight years.

Besides World No. 9 Prannoy, the men’s team boasts of Singapore Open champion B. Sai Praneeth, Swiss Open winner Sameer Verma and World No. 10 (junior rankings) Lakshya Sen in the singles.

National champion pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy and the young duo of Arjun MR and Shlok Ramachandran will have to handle the responsibility in doubles.

India has been clubbed with France, Australia and formidable China in Group A and Prannoy and Co. know they can’t afford any slip up in the campaign opener against France.

“Competition is tough. We have a good young team and we can come back with a medal but first, we are focussed on beating France and make it to the knockout stage," Praneeth told PTI.

“France is not an easy team. Brice Leverdez and Lucas Corvee are good and we can’t take them for granted. If we beat France, we are through to the quarterfinals and then we can sit and strategize. If we get a good team like Indonesia or Korea, we have a good chance in singles,” he added.

Given the fact that India’s strength lies in singles - especially with Commonwealth Games silver medal-winning doubles pair of Satwik Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty not in the team - the country’s campaign will largely depend on the three singles matches.

The women’s team, on the other hand, has been placed alongside Canada, Australia and heavyweight Japan in group A and it would need to play out of its skin to finish in top two and make it to the quarterfinals.

The women’s team is more depleted and inexperienced in absence of Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy - the latter was diagnosed with Typhoid a couple of weeks back.

While Saina is expected to pull off her matches, it would be a tall ask for 16-year-old Vaishnavi Jakka Reddy, World No. 64 Sai Krishna Priya, Anura Prabhu Desai and Vaishanavi Bhale to outshine their opponents in the singles match, especially against Japan and Canada.

The doubles combination of Prajakta Sawant/Sanyogita Ghorpade and Poorvisha S Ram/Meghana J too will have to produce something special to harbour any hopes of a win against their formidable opponent Japan.