The Indian men’s team has never won a medal at the prestigious Thomas Cup badminton event. The best in the past were semi-final equivalent performances in 1952, 1955 and 1979... but in the era of gold and silver for finalists and bronze for losing semi-finalists, India have never reached the podium. But as the 32nd edition of the tournament rolls along on Sunday, there is a real sense of expectation.
Singles: Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Priyanshu Rajawat
Doubles: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, M.R Arjun, Dhruv Kapila, Krishna Prasad Garaga, Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala
Singles: PV Sindhu, Aakarshi Kashyap, Ashmita Chaliha, Unnati Hooda
Doubles: Treesa Jolly, Simran Singhi, Ritika Thaker, Tanisha Crasto, Shruti Mishra
Chinese Taipei, Germany and Canada in Group C of the Thomas Cup, and with their top players in form, India have the potential not just to make the quarterfinals but go beyond.
With Lakshya Sen, Srikanth Kidambi and HS Prannoy as the three singles nominations, India’s depth is significant this time around and these three men are capable of winning two matches in the tie on most days. While the top doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who were brilliant in the campaign last time around too, can go toe to toe with the best in the business on their day.
While India managed to avoid quite a few tricky opponents in the draw, Canada and Germany won’t be pushovers with a strong singles player and doubles pairing respectively in their squads, but collectively India should have enough firepower to win those ties. The battle against Chinese Taipei could well decide the top spot, with the likes of Chou Tien Chen, Wang Tzu Wei and Olympic champions Wang Chi-lin and Lee Yang offering the stiffest challenge to the Indians.
“We have the best chance to win the Thomas Cup this time. We have three decent singles and one doubles pair at par with the best and we just have to make sure that they are all pumped up, all of them are capable of beating the best,” former India coach Vimal Kumar was quoted as saying by PTI. “I can understand, it is difficult for the women’s team but the men’s team has a good chance.”
Srikanth spoke about the importance of collective performance ahead of the tournament. “We kind of have a young team, and all of us are doing well. It is really important for all of us to come together and play as a group to do well, it is definitely going to be very interesting,” the former world No 1 said.
India's Thomas Cup schedule
|Sun 5/8/2022 7.30 AM IST||Thomas Cup - Group C||INDIA vs GERMANY|
|Mon 5/9/2022 12.30 PM IST||Thomas Cup - Group C||INDIA vs CANADA|
|Wed 5/11/2022 12.30 PM IST||Thomas Cup - Group C||INDIA VS CHINESE TAIPEI|
In the Uber Cup finals, India had back-to-back semifinal appearances and bronze medal finishes in 2014 and 2016 but it will be a huge achievement worth celebrating if that can be repeated this time around.
Despite PV Sindhu’s selection, India’s overall strength might see them struggle to go deep. For starters, the first match against Canada in the group is all crucial, and a defeat could all but end India’s hopes of progressing to the knockout stage right away. Essentially, India’s chances of finishing in the top two will come down to overcoming the Michelle Li-led side.
Sindhu can give them a boost, and there are some exciting youngsters in the squad who could potentially punch above their weight to take the team past the group stage.
Sindhu is back in contention to play in the Uber Cup for the first since 2016 (an edition when she had to play a couple of doubles matches with Sikki Reddy, but won’t be doing so this time around one would think). It’s been a while, for sure.
In Aakarshi Kashyap and Ashmita Chaliha, India have two players who need to make a breakthrough at the big stage to translate their potential into something more tangible. But if she does get to play, keep an eye out for teenager Unnati Hooda who has made it to the squad from the trials ahead of the likes of Aditi Bhatt. Unnati, who won Odisha Open, is the fourth singles player on paper but could get a go or two depending on the lineup India field.
In doubles, the exciting young pair of Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly could have provided hope on clinching a tie or two but Gayatri’s late withdrawal leaves them further short in that category. Remains to be seen if there is any mixing and matching with Tanisha Crasto and the likes.
The match against Korea could pit Sindhu against An Seyoung once again if both players are nominated as the teams’ top singles players, and it could make for a superb battle potentially. The Koreans however are overwhelming favourites to top this group given the quality of doubles they possess.
India's Uber Cup schedule
|Sun 5/8/2022 5.30 PM IST||Uber Cup - Group D||INDIA vs CANADA|
|Tue 5/10/2022 7.30 AM IST||Uber Cup - Group D||INDIA vs USA|
|Wed 5/11/2022 7.30 AM IST||Uber Cup - Group D||KOREA vs INDIA|
Indonesia are the most successful team in the Thomas Cup with 14 titles, while China are the most successful team in the Uber Cup with 15 titles. Both these teams enter this tournament as the defending champions. At this stage, it is impossible to see who has the collective strength to stop China in the Uber Cup. But contrastingly, Indonesia have been drawn in a group of death of sorts alongside Thailand, Singapore and Korea. Their doubles depth however should see them compete for the title once again.
Thomas Cup (men)
- 2010 – Host Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur); Champion – China
- 2012 – Host China (Wuhan); Champion – China
- 2014 – Host India (New Delhi); Champion – Japan
- 2016 – Host China (Kunshan); Champion – Denmark
- 2018 – Host Thailand (Bangkok); Champion – China
- 2020 – Host Denmark (Aarhus) in 2021; Champion – Indonesia
Uber Cup (women)
- 2010 – Host Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur); Champion – Korea
- 2012 – Host China (Wuhan); Champion – China
- 2014 – Host India (New Delhi); Champion – China
- 2016 – Host China (Kunshan); Champion – China
- 2018 – Host Thailand (Bangkok); Champion – Japan
- 2020 – Host Denmark (Aarhus) in 2021; Champion – China
The live action from the BWF Thomas and Uber Cup Finals 2022 starting May 8, 2022, will be on Sports18 in India (television) and Voot Select (streaming).
The Uber Cup section has been updated with a couple of clarifications regarding India’s opponents and Sindhu’s return to the tournament.