It has been 28 long years since India won a medal in badminton at the Asian Games. But the current squad seems set to win the first medal since the Men’s Team bronze in 1986.The Indian challenge will be spearheaded by Saina Nehwal, P.V.Sindhu and P.Kashyap. The build-up to the event has not been short of controversies and shocks. Saina, after a disappointing exit at the quarter-finals of the World Championship has shifted base to Bengaluru, to train under Vimal Kumar. It is a move that is expected to produce better results, amidst fears of cracks in the team. Saina is a fighter, something she has proved again and again. Though recent form may suggest otherwise, she has the game, the experience and the will to go all the way and better Syed Modi’s bronze at the 1982 Games. On her day, the World No.7 has the ability to beat the best.
P.V.Sindhu is running high on confidence. After historic bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships, she surely has the belief that she can make it big. She is undaunted by big names, shocking top ranked players regularly. If she can get over her inconsistency especially against unfancied rivals, the lanky shuttler can do better than her more experienced counter-part.
An emotional gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and an early exit at the World Championships, Kashyap has seen both sides of the coin. Though Lin Dan, World Champion Chen Long and World No.1 Lee Chong Wei are the favourites, the 28 year old can pull off an upset and bag a medal. India’s best bet in the men’s section needs to put behind the disappointment of the World Championships and give in his best if he is to create history, again.
The team events also provide an opportunity to bring home a medal. The women’s team though hampered by Jwala Gutta’s withdrawal due to injury has a very good chance of winning. With a relatively easy first match against Chinese Macau and two top ten shuttlers in their ranks, they will only have to stick to the basics to finish on the podium. But there is added pressure on Sindhu after deciding to partner Smash Queen-Ashwini Ponappa in doubles. How the youngster handles it will be interesting to see.
The men’s team with their first fixture against South Korea have a tough task ahead. Their hopes will be pinned on Kashyap, Srikanth and Gurusai Dutt, since beating the Korean’s doubles teams will be a herculean task. Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and China are also in the fray, but the team events are always famous for their upsets.
The drought has been very long and the competition has got tougher, but this might just be India’s best chance at the Asian Games yet. Whether the shuttlers capitalize on it, will have to be seen.