India looks to continue impressive show at 20th Commonwealth Games

Glasgow: Despite star shuttler Saina Nehwal`s last-minute pull-out, India will look to maintain their impressive run when they begin their campaign with a clash against minnows Ghana in the mixed team event of the 20th Commonwealth Games here on Thursday.

India had won two gold, one silver and one bronze in 2010 and this time again they would look to repeat their performance even though they suffered a jolt with the late withdrawal of Saina due to injury.

P Kashyap and P V Sindhu are expected to be among medals in men`s and women`s singles repectively while the women`s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa would be raring to go to defend the gold they won in 2010.

The Indian team has been considerably weakened due to the absence of Saina but it will still be in the reckoning for a medal in the combined mixed team event.

The badminton competitions at the Glasgow Games begin with mixed team event at the Emirates Arena and India has been placed in Pool B along with Ghana, Kenya and Uganda and it should not be a problem to top the group and make it to the knock-out round.

The Indian team is raring to go and they have left behind the disappointment of Saina`s pulling out.

"The players are upbeat, they are training well and ready. We hope to do very well and maintain our level," team manager Tej Pal Singh Puri said.

About tomorrow`s match against Ghana and Kenya, Puri said, "We should be able to top our group and make it to the quarterfinals."

The group winner of the six pools and the two best runners-up teams will make it to the quarterfinals.

"We won silver last time but we cannot say anything now about our performance in the knock-out phase. There will be a draw after the preliminary rounds and we will know who plays whom in the knock-out phase," he added.

India has a strong chance to win at least a medal in the men`s singles after the pulling out of world number one Lee Chong Wei.

Another Malaysian Wei Feng Chong is now the highest ranked left in the fray at 19th while India`s Kashyap, bronze winner in 2010 Delhi CWG, is ranked two rungs below. England`s Rajiv Ouseph, who won silver in 2010 Delhi CWG, is at 27th while two other Indians K Srikanth and RMV Gurusaidutt are at 31st and 35th.

Kashyap has been handed second seed while Ouseph is third. Srikanth and Gurusaidutt are fourth and fifth seeds.

Kashyap had lost to Wei Feng Chong in the recent Thomas Cup in India while Gurusaidutt too went down against the Malaysian in the Malaysia Grand Prix Gold.

In women`s singles, only three players in the fray are in the top 50 of the world ranking with India`s P V Sindhu (11th) leading the pack, followed by Kirsty Gilmour of Scotland at 17th and Li Michelle of Canada at 20th.

19-year-old Sindhu has been handed the top seed after the withdrawal of Sindhu and she would be aiming for gold and add another achievement in her fledging career.

Among other challengers, Kirsty Gilmour, seeded second, will attempt to become the first Scot to win the Women`s Singles title, while Michelle Li of Canada will also fancy her chances. India has another shuttler in the fray in women`s singles in P C Thulasi who has been seeded sixth.

In men`s doubles, it is a difficult proposition for India to win a medal though it is not impossible. Malaysia are hot favourites and English, Singapore and Australian teams may be in for other medals.

In women`s doubles also, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa are ranked 21st in the world. They will have to fight out for top honours against Malaysian and Singaporean opponents in their quest to defend the title they won in 2010.

Singapore pair of Shinta Mulia sari and Lei Yao, ranked 15th, have been named in their country`s squad while Malaysian 18th ranked pair of Vivian Kah Mun Hoo and Khe Wei Woon will also be competing.

In mixed doubles, India has been seeded third behind defending champions Malaysia and and last edition silver medallist England.

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