India will start as favourites against a young Malaysian team sans legend Lee Chong Wei when they clash in a group 1D match of the Sudirman Cup in Nanning on Tuesday.
India, who had reached the quarter-finals twice in the 2011 and 2017 editions, will have to overcome Malaysia, the 2009 semi-finalists, when they begin their campaign. Any hiccups against Malaysia will make their next clash against mighty China a must-win battle.
Malaysia were thrashed 0-5 by China in the opening match and a loss against India will see them bow out of the competition.
The 13-member Indian team, seeded eighth this time, will look to draw inspiration from their sensational win over Malaysia en route to an unprecedented team gold at the Commonwealth Games 2018.
India’s chances during the mixed team championship will depend on the quality singles players such as reigning BWF World Tour Finals winner PV Sindhu, 2019 Indonesia Masters champion Saina Nehwal, 2019 India Open finalist Kidambi Srikanth and BWF World Tour Finals semi-finalist Sameer Verma.
Malaysia will be led by Goh Jin Wei and Soniia Cheah in women’s singles, while Lee Zii Jia will be entrusted with the responsibility in men’s singles in the absence of Chong Wei, who is still recovering from nose cancer.
While India hold the edge in both, given the way Soniia stretched All England Championship Chen Yufei on Sunday, it will be interesting to see who among Sindhu or Saina will India select to field.
Srikanth has consistently reached the quarters but struggled to go beyond in 11 of his last 13 tournaments. He had a runner-up finish at the India Open and is expected to hold the edge against Zii Jia.
Malaysia will need their doubles to put up a good performance to salvage hopes of making it to the knockout stage.
Malaysia saw some promising performances this year from Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik and Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi in men’s doubles, Chow Mei Kuan and Lee Meng Yean in women’s doubles and Goh Soon Huat and Shevon Jemie Lai and Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing in mixed doubles.
For India, the return of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy after an injury gap will fuel their hopes in both men’s doubles and mixed doubles.
Satwik, who recovered from a shoulder injury to make a title-winning comeback at the Brazil International Challenge recently, will form a formidable men’s doubles pair with Chirag Shetty, while pairing with the experienced Ashwini Ponnappa in mixed doubles.
If India can quell the Malaysian challenge, they can go with a relaxed mind against the 10-time champions China on Wednesday.