India’s Uber Cup campaigns over the past 57 years have provided very few moments of joy. But next week, as host, India expects to go further in Uber Cup than in men’s Thomas Cup.

In the inaugural edition of the premier team championship, in 1957, and again in 1960, India made the final stage. Thereafter, for 50 years, India failed to qualify from the Asian Zone.

The jinx was broken in 2010 with Saina Nehwal spearheading India to a place in the 12-nation finals.

In 1957, United States, India, Denmark and New Zealand made it from the continental qualifiers.

The Indian team comprising three-time National champion Sushila Rege-Kapadia, Suman Deodhar, Prem Parashar and Mumtaz Chinoy provided a pleasant surprise by beating Malaysia 3-2 in the qualifying phase.

USA drubs India

In the semifinals, United States ended India’s campaign with a 7-0 drubbing. The withdrawal of New Zealand meant Denmark eased into the final. USA’s 6-1 victory over Denmark made it a worthy winner.

In late 1959, at Jamshedpur, India again beat Malaysia to qualify for the finals. Denmark, Canada, New Zealand and defending champion USA were the other teams.

In the finals held in early 1960, India ran into Denmark and lost 6-1. The Danes reached the Challenge round but surrendered 5-2 to USA.

Sadly, thereafter, generations of talented players spread over five decades, failed to take India past the Asian zone qualifiers.

This period saw, by turns, players such as Ami Ghia, Madhumita Goswami-Bisht, Manjusha Pawangadkar-Kanwar and Aparna Popat.

But the lack of an equally good second singles player plus a formidable doubles combination kept India out of the finals.

The wait finally ended in 2010. With four qualifying spots available in the Asian Zone qualifiers,

India overcame Chinese Taipei 3-2 in the crucial league tie in the five-nation group to reach the semifinals.

Saina, then ranked seventh in the World, put India ahead by beating Chen Hsiao Huan but Taipei bounced back by winning the first doubles.

As things turned out, Sayali Gokhale was destined to emerge as the star performer. The former National champion stunned Hung Shih Han 15-21, 21-10, 23-21 in a thriller.

Now it was up to G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa to give India the winning lead. They did so in quick time by recording a 21-16, 21-16 triumph over Chien Yu Chin and Wang Pei Rong.

Great match

“It was a great match,” said Saina. “I never expected that we would come this far,” added Saina.

In Jwala’s views, Sayali was the “hero” of the tie. “She really gave her everything in the match and pulled off a brilliant win. She was under pressure but dealt with it well in the end.”

In the 12-nation finals, India was clubbed with Korea and South Africa in the preliminary league. Korea and India drubbed South Africa 5-0 to ensure quarterfinal berths. India then lost 4-1 to Korea to finish second in the group.

Unsurprising defeat

When the line-up for the quarterfinals was drawn, India faced China, the defending champion. The 3-0 defeat to China was hardly surprising.

Since then, Saina and Sindhu have added the Olympic and World championship bronze medals to their kitty.

With Jwala and Ashwini upbeat after claiming the bronze in the recent Asian championship, India has reasons to be optimistic of its best showing in the competition next week.

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