The Badminton Association of India (BAI) on Friday announced the Indian team for the Badminton Asia Team Championship to be held in the Philippines capital Manila from 11 to 16 February.
B. Sai Praneeth, who won the bronze medal in the men’s division in the world championship, former World Number-1 Kidambi Srikanth will be leading India’s charge in the men’s events. They will also be joined by their 2016 bronze medal-winning team partners HS Prannoy, Lakshya Sen and Subhankar Dey.
In the women’s division, the BAI has named a number of youngsters including South Asian Games gold medalist Ashmita Chaliha. Other than Ashmita, Malvika Bansod, Aakarshi Kashyap and Gayatri Gopichand will showcase their talent in the women’s singles event. In the doubles pairs, senior national champions Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam along with K Maneesha and Rutaparna Panda will lead the charge for India.
The top-notch players who will be participating in this competition will be eyeing to grab the Olympic spot as this tournament is an Olympic qualifier. Off-late the Indian shuttlers have not enjoyed a very good form. The Indian shuttlers have failed to even advance to the second round of most of the tournament they have participated in the New Year.
Ahead of the tournament, Kidambi said that he is touted to return back strong after suffering from injuries and bad form in the last six months. He said, “I want to participate in the Olympics and do well. I know that in the last six months I have faced a difficult time, but I am eager to achieve full fitness and perform well.”
Also, when quizzed about India’s chances of winning a medal at the Olympics the former world number said, “I think the Indian badminton team has a very good chance of doing extremely well in the Olympics if we bring consistency to our performance during the tournament.”
Srikanth credited Pullela Gopichand for improving the level of Indian badminton and said that the credit for producing so many champions only goes to the national coach. It is under the guidance of Gopichand that India has drafted Olympic medalists Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.