Sindhu opts out of Uber Cup; strong side for Thomas Cup title defence

NEW DELHI, Apr 4: Double Olympic medallist P V Sindhu and the two top women’s doubles pairs have opted out of the Uber Cup but a strong men’s team will take the court for its title defence in the Thomas Cup, commencing in Chengdu from April 27.
Sindhu, who has played six tournaments since returning to action at the Badminton Asia Team Championships in February, pulled out of the event to give herself more time to recover and be battle-ready for the Paris Olympics.
Top women’s doubles pairs — Treesa Jolly-Gayatri Gopichand and Ashwini Ponnappa and Tanisha Crasto — also withdrew since it is not a full strength team with Sindhu missing. They chose to focus on the other assignments as they strive to earn the Olympics qualification.
Following the withdrawal of Sindhu and the two pairs, Badminton Association of India (BAI) decided to reward the players who performed at the Senior National Championships by give them the India cap.
“Sindhu opted out as she is coming back from an injury and she wants to give herself enough time to prepare for Paris Games where she will hope to win another medal for the country,” BAI secretary Sanjay Mishra told PTI.
“The doubles pairs also decided to skip the event as they too have been playing a lot of tournaments and want to focus on their qualification, so we have rewarded the semifinalists of the national championships by including them in the team.”
India are the defending champions in Thomas Cup, having clinched the epic crown in 2022. The selectors decided to field a strong squad with a perfect mix of youth and experience.
The Indian men’s team had created history in Thailand when they defeated formidable Indonesia 3-0 in the final to clinch their first-ever Thomas Cup crown.
The senior selection committee also decided to have more options in singles considering the hectic schedule of all players this season.
A 10-member team for Thomas Cup will have five singles players with Kiran George joining HS Prannoy, Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth and Priyanshu Rajawat, while Sai Pratheek will be the back-up doubles player to the two first-choice combinations, namely World No. 1 pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty and MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila.
The final decision on the Thomas Cup squad was taken after an online meeting of the selection committee that comprises Chief National coach Pulella Gopichand, former India stars U Vimal Kumar, Jwala Gutta, Manjusha Kanwar, Partho Ganguly and Mallika Baruah Sarma.
“The committee felt we needed to have one additional player in the singles, while in doubles they have picked top two pairs and Sai Pratheek is selected as an additional doubles player after consultation with Mathias Boe (Danish doubles coach) just in case somebody is not fully fit or needs recovery,” Mishra said.
For the Uber Cup, the selectors decided to give an opportunity to youngsters after top players in both singles and doubles pulled out.
The 17-year-old Anmol Kharab, who is India’s latest badminton sensation, will be watched keenly at the big stage where she will have Ashmita Chaliha and Tanvi Sharma as her teammates in singles.
“The Uber Cup team also looks good with the young talented players. I wish them the best of luck and hope they will make the nation proud with their performances.”
In Thomas Cup, the Indian men’s team has been clubbed with heavyweights Indonesia, Thailand and England in Group C, while the women’s side has been drawn in Group A alongside 15-time winner China, Canada and Singapore in Uber Cup.
Indian women have reached the semifinals of the Uber Cup thrice in 1957, 2014 and 2016.
The Indian men’s team qualified automatically for the tournament by virtue of being the defending champions, while the women made the cut after winning a historic gold medal at the Badminton Asia Team Championships in Malaysia earlier this year.
Thomas Cup squad:
(Singles) HS Prannoy, Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, Priyanshu Rajawat and Kiran George; (Doubles) Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, MR Arjun, Dhruv Kapila and Sai Pratheek
Uber Cup squad:
(Singles) Anmol Kharb, Tanvi Sharma, Ashmita Chaliha and Isharani Baruah; (Doubles) Shruti Mishra, Priya Konjengbam, Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker. (PTI)