Mixed team champions India begin their title defence against Pakistan at the Arena Birmingham on Friday. Unlike cricket or hockey, where the atmosphere is electric, the Indian shuttlers are expected to ease past Pakistan.
While the Indian squad boasts of big names, Pakistan have struggled to field a team. It is learnt that their federation has named only a four-member squad with world No. 175 Mahoor Shehzad being their highest-ranked player, in women’s singles. None of the other players figure in top-500.
India should top Group 1. Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka are the other teams in the group.
Two teams each from four groups qualify for the quarterfinals. The only teams that pose a threat to India at the Games are Malaysia and Singapore, but even they need to play well to upset India’s calculations. “Against Malaysia our singles players are strong and we have better doubles teams than Singapore. Even in women’s singles it would be very difficult to stop Sindhu,” said India coach Siyadatullah.
India’s first real contest could be in the knockouts against Singapore. Teams play a five-match rubber – one men’s singles, one women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
Sindhu is expected to have it easy against world No. 19 Yeo Jia Min of Singapore. While the doubles teams are too strong, men’s singles will be tight. India may field Lakshya Sen ahead of Kidambi Srikanth against world champion Loh Kean Yew.
Against Malaysia, Indians have to work hard in doubles. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty need to be at their best against Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik.
Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly in women’s doubles and Ashwini Ponnappa and Sumeeth Reddy in mixed can also fancy their chances against the Malaysians.
Source By – The Times of India