Gold Coast: A star-studded Indian badminton team will begin its quest for a maiden gold medal when they take on minnows Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the mixed team championship on the opening day of the 21st Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast on Thursday.
India have been accorded the top seed this time and are clubbed with Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Scotland in Group A.
With the likes of Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu, world No. 2 Kidambi Srikanth and a promising men’s doubles pair of Satwik Ranki Reddy and Chirag Shetty in their ranks, formidable India are not likely to be tested en route the knockout stage.
Silver medallists in 2010, India had narrowly missed a bronze medal in the 2014 Glasgow Games after losing to Singapore in the medal play-off and Pullela Gopichand coached team would look to make amends.
India is a formidable side and the only countries likely to trouble them are three-time champions Malaysia and England, who have won the gold six times.
Mayalsia, who clinched the gold in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 editions, have three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei in singles and a strong men’s doubles combination of Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong.
England, on the other hand, have Rajiv Ouseph in singles and a formidable mixed doubles husband-wife combination of Chris Adcock and Gabriella Adcock. Singapore too are likely to reach the semifinals with their young 10-member squad.
With Sindhu suffering an ankle strain just a week ahead of the Games, Saina Nehwal will take the court on Thursday against Sri Lanka’s Madushika Dilrukshi Beruwelage at the Carrara Sports Arena in the women’s singles.
The former world No. 1, who had threatened to pull out to ensure that her father Harvir Singh gets an accreditation, will have to put behind that fiasco when she features in the morning match on Thursday.
The clash against lightweight Sri Lanka will begin with Pranaav Chopra and Ruthvika Gadde taking on Sachin Dias and Thilini Pramodika Hendahewa in the mixed doubles.
In the men’s singles, Srikanth, who won four titles last season, will then take on London Olympian Niluka Karunaratne but he is unlikely to be stretched by his rival, whom the Indian had beaten in the Glasgow edition as well.
Satwik Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will then face Buwaneka Goonethilleka and Dinuka Karunaratna in men’s doubles, while Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will lock horns with Thilini Pramodika Hendahewa and Kavidi Sirimannage in women’s doubles.
India will cross swords with Pakistan in the evening.