“And we do grocery shopping also together during team events,” read a caption on a post on X, formerly Twitter, uploaded by HS Prannoy.
The picture showed members of the Indian badminton team inside a supermarket in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on Sunday.
Led by Prannoy himself and the world No 1 men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, the Indian shuttlers are in Malaysia for the 2024 Badminton Asia Team Championships, starting on Tuesday.
Badminton team events, off late, have been one of India’s stronger suits in the sport. With a talented group of players across disciplines and good camaraderie between them, India have earned quite a few podium finishes in team events in recent editions.
This includes two bronze medals in the Badminton Asia Team Championships in 2016 and 2020 respectively for the men’s team to go with their Asian Games silver medal in Hangzhou last year. Add to that, their first ever Thomas Cup title triumph two years ago and it is easy to understand why India are a strong contender.
The Indian men’s team, though, has been handed a tricky draw in the competition. They will be up against China and Hong Kong in Group A and will have to be at the top of their game to make it through to the knockouts.
The likes of Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth have been struggling for form off late in the BWF circuit, but India will take solace from the fact that their doubles duo tends to bring out their best in team events.
India’s success, however, is not limited to the men’s team events, as the 2022 Commonwealth mixed team silver and the bronze at Badminton Asia Mixed Team championships suggests.
It is the women’s team events, however, where India continues to struggle. The lack of a reliable second singles player has haunted them for quite some time now. And with PV Sindhu returning to the highest level after a three and a half-month injury layoff, it is only expected to continue.
But the fact that India currently has two quality doubles pairs in the women’s section – Treesa Jolly-Gayatri Gopichand and Ashwini Ponnappa-Tanisha Crasto, means that the team will not be a pushover.
With the likes of An Se Young, Chen Yufei, Tai Tzu Ying and others skipping the event, there could be no better event for Sindhu to ease her way back in.
Another advantage for the Indian women’s team is the fact that they are already assured a spot in the knockouts stage. With only heavyweights China drawn in their group, Sindhu and Co will play the quarter-finals stage despite of the result in their group stage encounter.
What’s at stake?
With 2024 being an Olympic year, there are Paris Games qualification points on offer for the players. This means that all the top players across the continent, barring a few, will be in action over the next few weeks.
The tournament holds an extra significance for the likes of Sen and Srikanth, who are all within touching distance of the qualification mark in the Race to Paris Qualification Rankings.
Meanwhile, the likes of Sindhu, Prannoy – who are currently within the qualification range, will hope to better their standings in order to have a favourable draw come the Olympics.
Besides, the competition also offers a direct qualification to the 2024 Thomas and Uber Cups for all the four semi-finalists in both the men’s and women’s section.
However with the Indian men’s team being the reigning champions, they are already secured of a spot in the Thomas Cup and will look at the Badminton Asia Team Championships as a preparatory event.
Moreover with both the men’s and women’s team facing early exits in the last edition of the continental tournament, there’s a lot to prove this time around.
India vs Hong Kong – February 14
India vs China – February 15
India vs China – February 14
Men’s Team: HS Prannoy, Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, Chirag Sen, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Dhruv Kapila, MR Arjun, Suraj Goala, Pruthvi Roy
Women’s Team: PV Sindhu, Anmol Kharb, Tanvi Sharma, Ashmita Chaliha, Treesa Jolly, Gayatri Gopichand, Ashwini Ponnappa, Tanisha Crasto, Priya Devi Konjengbam, Shruti Mishra