Principal Correspondent

HYDERABAD: India should make it to the Group II after a creditable performance in the forthcoming edition of the Sudirman Cup world mixed team badminton championship to be held in China from May 10 to 17, says chief national coach Pullela Gopi Chand. India is currently placed in Group III.

Speaking on the sidelines of the on-going training session at the Gopi Chand-Nimmagadda Badminton Academy (Gachibowli) on Wednesday, Gopi said that India may not have fared impressively over the years. “But, things look very positive this time after some very good performances by Indian players especially World No. 10 Saina Nehwal.

We should in all probability top the Group III which also has Sweden, Scotland, USA, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Australia and Bulgaria” he explained. “Competition against Ukraine can be dicey but against other teams we should have a fairly good chance,” he added.

Only the Group I teams – China, Indonesia, England, Korea, Denmark, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan – are in contention to win the Cup while teams in the other Groups can only battle for promotion.

Saina factor

“The form and consistency of Saina is a key factor. And with players like Chetan Anand, two-time National champion, spearheading the men’s singles, the chances of India putting a solid performance are good” Gopi remarked.

“No doubt, the Indians could have done much better in the India Open Gold Grand Prix championship. But the fact they got a chance to assess where they stand and what areas need to be improved, should help them now,” he pointed out.

Saina said that the last time she played in the Sudirman Cup in 2007, she was not a big name. “This time, I am aware of my reputation and the pressures I will have to handle. A lot depends on how well we start off, and a huge responsibility is on my shoulders,” she said.

Chetan said that the three-week break he got from the competitive circuit should help his cause. “I know it is not easy to go all out after the break. But given the training we had, I am confident of a good show.

All-round strength

“Overall, I believe this Indian team is capable of doing well. We have good all-round strength with a very strong mixed doubles combination too in the fray,” he said.

However, it is unlikely that Gutta Jwala and Sruthi Kurien, the eight-time National women’s doubles champions, will combine in the Sudirman Cup. Gopi hinted at the possibility of trying out a new combination.

The mood is upbeat in the Indian team which is leaving on Thursday for the championship and Gopi hoped that it would translate into winning performances in the championship.

The team: Men: Anand, Arvind Bhat, K. Tharun, Rupesh Kumar, Sanave Thomas, V. Diju and Arun Vishnu.

Women: Saina Nehwal, Aparna Balan, Sayali Gokhale, Gutta Jwala and Sruthi Kurien. Chief coach: Pullela Gopi Chand.

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