Gold Coast (Australia): Spearheaded by Olympic silver-medallist PV Sindhu, India are in for a tough challenge as they seek to end the agonising wait for a medal at the Sudirman Cup mixed team championship beginning here tomorrow.
India, ranked ninth, have managed to reach the knockout stage of the tournament only once during the 2011 edition, while in the last two editions they couldn't even cross the group stage.
Led by Sindhu and world No.13 Ajay Jayaram, India will have their task cut out this time when they take on Denmark and Indonesia in Group 1 D.
India will open their campaign against two-time runners- up Denmark on Monday and will be facing former champion and six-time runners-up Indonesia on Wednesday.
For India, the onus will be on singles to win their respective matches, while they would be hoping one of their doubles pair pull off one match at least.
London Olympics bronze-me dallist Saina Nehwal pulled out days ahead of the tournament but her absence should not affect India's chances as world No.4 Sindhu is more than capable of handling the responsibility.
"I think we have a good chance, it's a mixed team event so girls and boys both have to perform well. Saina isn't playing, but that shouldn't be any issue. I hope we can win," a confident Sindhu said.
Denmark have world No.3 and world No.4 Viktor Axelsen and Jan O Jorgensen respectively in their ranks and it would be a challenge for Jayaram and Singapore Open finalist K Srikanth to put it past the duo in men's singles.
Jayaram has a 3-2 record against Axelsen, having beaten him at the Malaysia Open recently, while Srikanth has a 2-2 record against Jorgensen, having lost to him at the Rio Olympics and he would be eyeing a revenge.
"It is definitely a tough draw. India's forte has always been singles but I think our doubles have done reasonably well of late. At least in mixed doubles, Sikki and Pranaav have done well recently. So if we could pull out a single and one doubles that would be great," said Jayaram, who had entered the Korea Super Series final in 2015.
Doubles have been India's weakest link with the Olympian men's pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy finding it difficult to get going in super series events.
But Sikki Reddy and Pranaav Jerry Chopra have done well, winning their maiden Grand Prix Gold title in January at Syed Modi International to reach the world No.16 spot.
The new pair of Sikki and Ashwini Ponnappa too have found success with a final finish at Lucknow being the highlight of their career so far.
However, it will take a giant-killing effort from Indian shuttlers to make a mark against Denmark, who have one pair inside the top 5 in each of the men's, women's and mixed doubles category.
Indonesia too have world No.7 Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir in mixed doubles and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, the world No.1 pair in men's doubles.
India's best women's doubles pair of Della Destiara Haris and Rosyita Eka Putri Sari are placed at the 15th spot and India's Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa will fancy their chances against them.