The most experienced player in the Indian team, Parupalli Kashyap on Saturday said his team will be second to none at the Li Ning Thomas Cup and home conditions will help him and compatriot K. Srikanth turn up the aggression.

India are drawn in a group which also comprises Malaysia, Korea and Germany and Kashyap said the hosts are capable of qualifying for the knockout stage of the event, starting May 18, riding on the back of singles performance.

“It is a tough draw, all teams are tough. Germany has two singles player in Marc Zwiebler and Dieter Domke, who are good. Mark has been consistent over the years to be inside the top 20. He has played here during IBL and Domke is also a good player. Doubles is obviously good,” Kashyap told PTI in an interview on the sidelines of a training session at the Siri Fort Complex.

“Even Korea have good singles and doubles player. Malaysia obviously have Lee Chong Wei and other two players are also decent. So it is evenly matched in singles. So we have an outside chance of reaching the quarterfinals.

“Since we bank on our singles, we will have to win all the singles. If we can pull out a doubles from somewhere it will be a bonus for us. But we will surely look at all the singles against Germany and Korea. I think we are capable of beating them,” he added.

India will be hosting the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals for the first time and Kashyap is banking on home conditions to do well in the tournament.

“Playing at home really gives me a push. Training for a couple of weeks ahead of the tournament really helps. Even homely Indian food, the climate, all these factors matters.

Also at home, with the crowd cheering for you and the whole team also rooting for you to win your match for the team to qualify is a different feeling,” he said.

“At Siri Fort, these courts are different, so I have been trying to focus on my attacking and aggressive game. I play good in these conditions, it was more condition specific training. I focused on getting back to good fitness.

“I am happy that these conditions are going to help both me and Srikanth. We are aggressive players, we like top smash more and right now my shoulder is also in right condition and so I can smash,” he added.

Though Kashyap is the senior most player, Srikanth will play the first singles being the top ranked shuttler in world and Kashyap said it will be favourable for the team.

“I tried to qualify as the first singles for Thomas Cup. If I would have achieved that if I could have won the second round at ABC because there are just 100 odd points difference between me and Srikanth. I wanted to take that responsibility as a senior player,” Kashyap said.

“But nevertheless, Srikanth has been in good form. He has beaten Son Wan Ho, so he will be confident against him and it will be favourable for us.”

Kashyap will be playing the second singles against Korea’s Lee Dong Keun, Malaysia’s Chong Wei Feng and Germany’s Dieter Domke.

Asked about his opponents, Kashyap said: “I lost to Lee closely in Singapore. He is a steady player. He is getting consistent results. Right now, he is as consistent as me. I am getting better right now but I think I will give myself advantage.”

“The Koreans have a steady sort of game. They are not very stroke-oriented or skillful but very steady. So it is going to be tough. We always had a 3-2 or 2-3 contests against Korea and I hope this time three is ours.

“Chong Wei Feng has got good results against all the Indians. I always had close games with him. I feel I am playing better than before, I am back to full fitness. So I think it is evenly matched,” he added.

A veteran of four Thomas Cup tournaments, the 26-year-old Indian is relishing the additional responsibility of being a senior shuttler in the team.

“When I played Thomas Cup for the first time, there were many senior players in the team and I feel seniors have to take additional responsibility. We all play individual events all through the year and so it is a different event. In team events, team spirit and taking responsibility helps in getting good results,” Kashyap said.

After a good run early in the season, Kashyap lost in the first and second round of Singapore Open and Asian Badminton Championship but the Commonwealth bronze-medallist said it was the tight schudule which took a toll and he is now back to his full fitness.

“It was a hectic schedule. I didn’t get time. Whenever I get around 4-5 weeks time to train, I do well. There are issues about my ranking and qualifying for Commonwealth Games, so it was important to play a couple of events so that I can take time off before major events,” he said.

“I have come close now so I think in 5-6 months I should be back in the top 10. In June, again there are three tournaments, so I will skip one. I have sent entries but if I do well in the first, I might pull off from the next.”

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