Even without playing anywhere near its best, Petroleum retained the team titles to complete an annual ritual for the 14th time in succession in the National badminton championship here on Saturday.
Much to the amusement of those present at the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium, the scrappy display brought Petroleum trophies that paled in comparison with the well-crafted ones received by the gallant runners-up Air India men and Airports Authority of India women.
For the second day, World No. 20 P. Kashyap did his reputation no good by dropping the opening game.
Ajay Jayaram’s embarrassing loss to seasoned campaigner Anand Pawar helped Air India make it 1-1.
Thereafter, the triumphs in the doubles and the third singles ensured Petroleum’s successful title-defence.
The struggle of Kashyap and 25th-ranked Jayaram, the top two men players in the country, does create an illusion of those behind closing the gap. But individual events that follow provide ample matches for the fancied players to set the record straight.
Kashyap, who needed three games to get past AAI’s Rohit Yadav on Friday, again took off on the wrong-foot against Prakash Padukone’s trainee Pratul Joshi.
The 17-year-old, conqueror of former National champion Arvind Bhat in the quarterfinals, raced away with the opening game 21-12 and led 13-10 in the second by making Kashyap err repeatedly.
But Kashyap woke up in time to draw level at 14 and never lost control in the remainder of the match.
Pawar, who has a history of first-round losses on the international circuit, produced his biggest victory in a long time by shutting out Jayaram 21-17, 21-17.
Jayaram had his chances in the second game where he led until 16-15 before Pawar played the big points better.
In the ladies’ section, even without the services of Saina Nehwal, National champion P.V. Sindhu and G. Jwala, Petroleum’s ‘second string’ accomplished the job.
P.C. Thulasi showed signs of getting her touch by upstaging an in-form Neha Pandit.
The reverse suffered by Ashwini Ponappa and Prajakta Sawant — the pair that will be seen in three international events this season — to the crafty Pradnya Gadre and N. Sikki Reddy was indeed a setback for the favourite.
But there were no more hiccups as former National runner-up Arunadhati Pantawane dismissed the challenge of Mohita Sahdev to seal the title.
Team championship finals: Men: Petroleum bt Air India 3-1 (P. Kashyap bt Pratul Joshi 12-21, 21-15, 21-12; Ajay Jayaram lost to Anand Pawar 17-21, 17-21; Tarun Kona and Arun Vishnu bt Akshay Dewalkar and Anand Pawar 22-20, 21-15; B. Sai Praneeth bt G. Gopiraju 21-14, 21-15).
Women: Petroleum bt Airports Authority of India 2-1 (P.C. Thulasi bt Neha Pandit 21-15, 21-7; Ashwini Ponappa and Prajakta Sawant lost to Pradnya Gadre and N. Sikki Reddy 14-21, 17-21; Arunadhati Pantawane bt Mohita Sahdev 21-16, 21-11).
Keywords: National badminton championship