Brimming with confidence, India will again look to punch above their weight when they run into 14-time winners Indonesia in the final of Thomas Cup here on Sunday, seeking to create history one more time.
Given their formidable record, defending champions Indonesia have been the team to beat in the competition, but the Indian men’s team has shown its mettle by bringing down mighty Malaysia and Denmark to make its first-ever final at the prestigious tournament. It was a historic moment for the unheralded Indian team as despite the odds, it never lacked in self belief and displayed exemplary mental fortitude to recover twice from initial reversals to come on top of their opponents.
S Rankireddy (left) and Chirag Shetty celebrate their win over Denmark’s Mathias Christiansen and Kim Astrup. Pic/AFP
Going into the final, India will look to prove that it possess the wherewithal to pull the rugs from under the feet of their fancied rivals.
While Indonesia have been relentless with an unbeaten record, India have lost just one match—against Chinese Taipei in the group stage—so far in the competition. “We have a quite balanced team, the doubles are contributing immensely.
‘We’ve a 50-50 chance’
“All the players have played exceptionally well and pulled out matches from close situations. So I feel we have a 50-50 chance against Indonesia,” former India coach Vimal Kumar, who is with the team, told PTI.
“The playing conditions are very different here, there is a lot of drift in the hall, so players who adjust well will have a better chance of getting success. That is the key.
“Also there is added pressure on Indonesia, which is an advantage for us as we have nothing to lose. We are not under pressure like the Chinese, Indonesians or Danish and that helps,” he added.
If Indonesia disposed off China and Japan in the knockout stage, India went past five-time former champions Malaysia and 2016 winner Denmark.
The poster boys of Indian men’s badminton—Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy—have shouldered the responsibility with an invincible record of five wins, while the country’s best doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty put their hands up whenever the chips were down. The young combination of Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala have proved to be a weak link but they gave a good account of themselves during their losses against Malaysia and Denmark.
The Indian think-tank is likely to bring back MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila as the second doubles pair for the final. The duo has played two matches in round robin with one win and a loss. World No.9 Lakshya Sen, who was laid low by food poisoning at the start of the tournament, has played well in patches but couldn’t provide a positive start in the last two outings.
On Sunday, Sen is likely to go up against World No.4 Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and the Indian will take inspiration from his last performance against the Indonesian, whom he easily dismantled in straight games at German Open in March.
Srikanth is expected to face World No.8 Jonatan Christie, who has been in red-hot form with title win at Swiss Open and runners-up finishes at Korea Open and Badminton Asia Championships.
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