Indians impress

Zulkiffli Zulfadli, the boys' champion.-Pics: SUBIR ROY

The young Indian shuttlers are on a par with the best of their level in terms of skill. They produced many an example of their sound skill level and fighting spirit against rivals from reputed countries like China, Malaysia and Indonesia. However, one distinct drawback in all the Indian competitors was the lack of strength to stay alive in keener and long-drawn contests, writes Y. B. Sarangi.

The performance of the younger bunch of Indian shuttlers in the Asia youth under-19 championships at the U. P. Badminton Academy courts in Lucknow offered several positive signs for the country.

India, for the first time, reached the semifinals of the team championship and was eligible for a bronze medal. In the individual events, the country bagged two medals through Sameer Verma's silver in boys' singles and P. V. Sindhu's bronze in girls' singles. In fact, Verma was the first ever Indian to reach a final in the championships.

The young Indian shuttlers are on a par with the best of their level in terms of skill. They produced many an example of their sound skill level and fighting spirit against rivals from reputed countries like China, Malaysia and Indonesia. However, one distinct drawback in all the Indian competitors was the lack of strength to stay alive in keener and long-drawn contests.

Sindhu, a trainee at the P. Gopi Chand Academy in Hyderabad, acknowledged the need for more strength following her gruelling semifinal loss to the six-foot tall Chinese girl Yu Sun. “I must improve my strength level, especially in my legs. In matches which stretch up to the third game, the legs should have enough stamina to support you,” said the 16-year-old.

Sindhu's defeat was a heart-wrenching experience for many in the stands. The Hyderabad girl, who has the dream and determination to come up like her more famous city mate Saina Nehwal, banked on her artistry to win the first game against Sun comprehensively. However, in the next two games, the Chinese severely tested Sindhu's stamina by resorting to high serves and powerful smashes to which the Indian had no answer.

The consoling factor is that Sindhu, daughter of volleyball players P. V. Ramana and P. Vijaya, has the enthusiasm to learn from her experience and improve. “I am happy with my medal, but would have been happier to get a better medal,” she said with sincerity.

Doing India proud...silver-winner Sameer Verma and bronze-medallist P. V. Sindhu.-

Verma, who made the boys' singles final, showed that he had it in him to become a world-beater. With his fine understanding of the game, thorough study of the opponent, good execution of the gameplan and solid court craft, Verma won loads of appreciation from the crowd.

The 17-year-old, the younger brother of top shuttler Sourabh Verma, played one of the best matches of his short career in the semifinal against Kai Liu of China. “The win has done a world of good to my confidence,” Verma, hailing from Dhar (Madhya Pradesh), said after the win. It is another matter that he could not play his natural game in the final against the second-seeded Zulfadli Zulkiffli from Malaysia.

Another Indian who impressed one and all with his cool-headed game was Pratul Joshi. Joshi, also from Dhar, initially trained under his father Atul Joshi (a Sports Authority of India coach) before joining the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bangalore last year. Now, the 16-year old southpaw, who stands out for his easy-looking style and skilful placement, holds the promise of emerging as one of the top shuttlers of the country.

There are several other talented players like K. Srikanth, who is excellent in singles as well as doubles and is from the Gopi Chand Academy, Rohit Yadav, T. Hemanagendra Babu, K. Maneesha, Salili Rane and Gauri Ghate.

Sun Yu, the girls' gold winner.-

National coach Gopi Chand is understandably proud of the talent of the up and coming crop of players and pins his hope on them for the 2016 Olympics. “Some good talents are there and they form the crux (for 2016) along with players like Guru Sai Dutt and Sourabh Verma who are 20 or 21 (years of age). By 2016, they will be 25 or 26, which in today's format of the game is a good age.”

Gopi was particularly happy with the improved performance of the Indians in the championship. Sanjeev Sachdeva, who was in charge of the National junior side, hailed the overall showing of the players and said they needed more camps and exposure trips to become better in their trade.

Overall, the Chinese players exhibited their strength to retain the team championship. However, they could not do so in the individual events as Indonesia clinched two gold medals. China, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei bagged one gold each.

THE RESULTS Indians unless specified:

Finals: Boys' singles: (2) Zulkiffli Zulfadli (Mas) bt Sameer Verma 21-15, 21-17; Doubles: (4) Yu Lin Chia-Jui Huang Po (Tpe) bt Yao Lu Ching-En Huang Chu (Tpe) 21-14, 21-13; Girls' singles: Sun Yu (Chn) bt Yaying Shen (Chn) 21-8, 21-13; Doubles: Rizki Andini Suci-Rosalia N. Tiara (INA) bt (4) Kuan Mei Chow-Yean Lee Meng (Mas) 21-18, 16-21, 21-12; Mixed doubles: Apri N. Lukhi-Ririn Amelia (INA) bt Tiyani Pei-Dongni Ou (Chn) 15-21, 21-16, 25-23.

Semifinals: Boys' singles: (2) Zulkiffli Zulfadli (Mas) bt Kento Momota (Jpn) 21-18, 21-19; Sameer Verma bt Kai Liu (Chn) 21-19, 15-21, 21-9; Doubles: (4) Yu Lin Chia-Jui Huang Po (Tpe) bt Ee Yi Teo-Nelson Heg (Mas) 21-16, 11-21, 21-17; Yao Lu Ching-En Huang Chu (Tpe) bt Ronald Alexander-Selvanus Geh (INA) 21-17, 21-19; Girls' singles: Yaying Shen (Chn) bt Xirui Hui (Chn) 23-21, 21-17; Sun Yu (Chn) bt P.V. Sindhu 13-21, 21-12, 21-10; Doubles: Rizki A. Suci-Rosalia Tiara (INA) bt Ayako Sakuramoto-Ayano Torii (Jpn) 21-15, 21-15; (4) Mei Kuan Chow-Yean Lee Meng (Mas) bt (2) Dongni Ou-Rui Xiong (Chn) 21-17, 17-21, 21-16; Mixed doubles: Apri N. Lukhi-Ririn Amelia (INA) bt Zhoufu Chen-Rui Xiong (Chn) 21-15, 18-21, 21-14; Tiyani Pei-Dongni Ou (Chn) bt Praveen Jor-Rosalia N. Tiara (INA) 21-14, 23-21.

Team championship: 1. China, 2. Malaysia, 3. India and Indonesia.