Looking for its 14th successive ‘double’ in the National badminton team championship, Petroleum faces issues of its own in the men’s section rather than any serious threat from rivals in the two-day competition beginning here on Wednesday.
With the injured duo of P. Kashyap and B. Sai Praneeth being allowed to skip the team events, Petroleum has included R.M.V. Gurusaidutt and Ajay Jayaram, seeded two and three in the open singles beginning on Friday.Singles options
Former champion Saurabh Verma and H.S. Prannoy offer options in the singles. The doubles combinations are Prannav Chopra-K. Srikanth and Arun Vishnu-K. Tarun.
With the country’s best players serving its cause, Petroleum hardly has any cause for concern. Having done it for over a decade, Petroleum remains an odds-on favourite.
In the top-half of the draw, Petroleum faces Madhya Pradesh in the quarterfinals. An easy opener should help the team warm up for Wednesday afternoon’s semifinal against the winner of the Karnataka-Airports Authority of India (AAI) clash.
Karnataka, featuring former national champions Arvind Bhat and Anup Sridhar, is expected to make the semifinals. Last year, Karnataka lost a close quarterfinal to eventual runner-up Air India, though the 0-3 margin did not truly reflect the difference between the teams.
From the bottom half of the draw, Air India — including Anand Pawar, youngsters Aditya Joshi and Harsheel Dani along with doubles specialist Akshay Dewalkar — look worthy of being in the final.
Teams like Delhi, Haryana or the winner of the UP-Assam quarterfinals are unlikely to test Air India.Raring to go
In the women’s section, Petroleum will not miss the services of Saina Nehwal. With P.V. Sindhu, Arundhati Pantawane or P.C. Thulasi set to play the singles, and the doubles pair of G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa raring to go, there seems no stopping the defending champion.
Petroleum starts its campaign against Maharashtra that looks to former champion Aditi Mutatkar and Neha Pandit, besides Riya Pillai in the singles. A victory will place Petroleum against the winner of Kerala-Delhi match.
The match to watch will be the quarterfinals featuring runner-up AAI and Air India.
In last year’s semifinals, AAI blanked Air India relying on the singles victory of Neha Pandit over the eventual National champion Sayali Gokhale. This year, with Neha representing Maharashtra, AAI is far less formidable.
Air India will be looking to Sayali and Saili Rane to pull off the two singles, while AAI appears certain to win the doubles through top seeds Pradnya Gadre and N. Sikki Reddy. The winner of this match will have an easy semifinal against Haryana, Assam or West Bengal.
The singles qualifiers:
Men (8): Rohan Castelino, Chetan Anand, Aditya Prakash, Shreyansh Jaiswal, Sachin Rawat, Daniel Farid, Nigel D’Sa and Sidharth Thakur.
Women (8): Chitra Lekha, Shriyanshi Pardeshi, Priya Sri Krishna, Rasika Raje, Karishma Wadkar, Vaishnavi Iyer, Dhanya Nair and K. Vaishnavi.
Team championship draw: Men: Pre-quarterfinals: Uttar Pradesh-Assam; Quarterfinals: Petroleum-Madhya Pradesh; Karnataka-AAI; UP/Assam-Haryana; Air India-Delhi.
Women: Pre-quarterfinals: Haryana-West Bengal; Quarterfinals: Petroleum-Maharashtra; Kerala-Delhi; Haryana/West Bengal-Assam; Air India-AAI.